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More than 80% support a Public School Transparency Act

School district budgets can be a maze of numbers and jargon that most citizens cannot easily understand. Even some lawmakers have difficulty concluding if a school district is spending money properly or has the resources it needs to be successful.

For example, Idaho’s largest school district, the West Ada School District, has a budget that is 336 pages long and includes six different funds and 36 different programs. The budget is readily available for citizen review, but transparency doesn't mean much if it is not understandable.

It is for these reasons that Mountain States Policy Center introduced the idea of a Public School Transparency Act. And the proposal has overwhelming support. Our recent Idaho Poll showed more than 80% of citizens support the concept. In the Twin Falls area, support reaches nearly 90%.

Idaho's top education official has also endorsed the idea.

“It’s a positive for our schools if the communities they serve understand how tax dollars are being spent," said Superintendent Debbie Critchfield said. "Let’s face it, school budgets tend to be complex and [the Public School Transparency Act] is a step that helps simplify the way they’re communicated publicly.”

This MSPC idea would require all public school districts, both on the first page of their budget and also on the front page of the district’s main website, to clearly report six simple things:

  1. Amount of total dollars (all funds – local, state and federal) spent by the district that year

  2. Amount of total dollars spent per student, per year

  3. Amount & percentage of total dollars allocated to average classroom

  4. Average administrator salary & benefits

  5. Average teacher salary & benefits

  6. Ratio of administrators to teachers to students


Very little extra work would be needed to provide this data and make it assessable on paper and online. Most districts already have it hidden somewhere in their budget documents. They know where to look, whereas parents and taxpayers can get lost.


Parents and taxpayers may see this data and conclude their school districts need more resources. Others may see it and believe that not enough is being done to spend money in the classroom. Regardless, the community will have a broader sense of the results being achieved, and what – if any – changes need to be made.

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