Big Brother?

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Of all the activities a governing body should be accountable for, perhaps none is more important than how it spends taxpayer dollars. So when a city council member asks for a detailed accounting of how dollars are spent by the city’s schools, it shouldn’t take six months to get an answer.

City Councilman Benny Burgess has for months been inquiring about the use of specific funds given to Franklin’s school division, and little, if any, information was shared. In light of this situation, The Tidewater News two weeks ago made a request under the Freedom of Information Act to find out how carryover dollars had been spent by the school division, dating back to the 2013 fiscal year. The response given by division superintendent Willie Bell was as vague as that given to city council.

• The $119,100 carryover request (request made in August 2014 and granted by city council) was spent on curriculum and professional development

• The approximate carryover of $245,000 was spent as part of the 2014-15 operating expenditures

Given the fact that carryover funds were requested to fund specific items, we agree with Councilman Burgess that a detailed accounting of expenditures is warranted. As such, we have followed up with another FOIA request seeking complete details.

At the most recent city council meeting where the expenditure of carryover funds was discussed, school board chair Edna King made the statement that, “It seems like Big Brother looking down our backs. There’s a limited amount of trust.”

With all due respect, for those who allocate millions of dollars annually to the operation of the public schools to inquire as to how those funds are spent is good governance, and not a case of Big Brother looking over the school board’s shoulder. If there is a lack of trust, it likely stems from the schools’ unwillingness to be forthcoming with requested information.