by Diane Payne
March 30, 2017
This March 23rd meeting of the School Reform Commission had been posted on the School District (SD) website for months as a regularly scheduled Action Meeting. For some reason, many of those who called the district to sign up to speak were told they had to speak on the topic of next year’s budget. APPS sent an email to the SRC requesting that they inform the district employees who take registration information that the district had never posted this as a budget meeting and that the public cannot be barred from speaking on general topics at any SRC Action Meeting.
Before we begin to look at the only topic on the meeting agenda—the adoption of the $2.8 billion lump sum budget—we should examine the ways in which the SRC continues to shut the public out of the process, withhold information that should be readily available, and violate the letter and spirit of the Sunshine Act.
The 2016 Commonwealth Court-ordered settlement of the suit brought by APPS after SRC violations of the Sunshine Act stipulates that resolutions must be posted two weeks prior to each meeting. However, there was no text or description of the resolution listed posted prior to this meeting. APPS sent an email to Chair Joyce Wilkerson asking why the SRC neglected to post the resolution summary. Ms. Wilkerson replied that the budget was not ready for posting and that the resolution could not be posted until a day or two before the meeting. Thus, the resolution would be treated as a “walk-on”; members of the public could sign up to speak on it at the beginning of the meeting.
We are talking about a $2.8 billion dollar budget here. The city’s budget is approximately $4 billion. Of course, the city posts its budget about a month before their months-long committee process begins, during which the public has at least two opportunities to speak to City Council on it. The SRC voted on this budget BEFORE the public was able to read it. There was a quick power-point presentation on the major points presented by Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson before the SRC voted to approve. This episode carries on the tradition of the SRC’s treating the public’s right to know as a minor point.