Most districts and charters fail to comply with Idaho’s transparency laws

Only about 20 percent of Idaho’s districts and charter schools comply with Idaho’s website transparency laws, according to a review this month by Idaho Education News.

To promote transparency of school business, Idaho statutes 33-320 and 33-357 require all public school district and charter websites to have the following items easily accessible:

  • Financial information, including budgets and audits.
  • Vendor and personnel contracts.
  • Monthly expenditures.
  • Board meeting agendas and minutes.
  • The school’s strategic plan.

Idaho Education News reviewed 167 district and charter websites in December and found most do not comply with the law.

Only 32 met all of the requirements, a steep drop from 2019 when 86 districts and charters met the mark. Another 30 schools met four of the five standards. In 2019, 83 percent of schools were in compliance with most regulations (four of five), which fell to 37 percent in 2020.

Twenty-eight schools met three of the criteria, 27 had two items and 22 of the district websites had just one.

The most commonly missed items were the posting of all contracts, with less than (73) having contracts, including vendor and teacher, available for patrons to view.

EdNews has been keeping track of school district compliance since 2015, when only 14 districts posted all the required information.

Here are the districts and charters in compliance with Idaho’s transparency law: Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Highland Joint, Horseshoe Bend, Jefferson County, Jerome, Lake Pend Oreille, Lapwai, Meridian Technical Charter, Nezperce, North Gem, Payette, Potlatch, Richfield, Swan Valley Elementary, Weiser, Whitepine, Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy, Connor Academy, Cottonwood, Forrest M. Bird Charter, Garden Valley, Glenns Ferry, Heritage Community Charter, Idaho Arts Charter, Idaho Science & Technology Charter, Idaho Virtual Academy, Kootenai, Thomas Jefferson Charter, Victory Charter, Vision Charter and Xavier Charter.

Districts in full compliance include Boise and Coeur d’Alene. Coeur d’Alene Superintendent Steven Cook said the district has a dedicated employee who updates the website regularly, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has not affected the way the district’s website is updated.

Several small districts, including Highland Joint, are also able to meet all five legal requirements. Highland Superintendent Sarah Hatfield said the district’s business manager, Nathan Weeks, is in charge of updating the website. Weeks doubles as the board clerk.

“We want our patrons to be updated,” Hatfield said.

According to Emmett Superintendent Craig Woods, the school’s business manager retired and the school changed its website platform. The district had four of the five items available, while Woods said the district has been focusing on in-person education.

“Our focus has not been on that portion of the website, but instead keeping our kids in face-to-face instruction,” Woods said.

Twenty-three school districts met none of the transparency law requirements, including Middleton.

Bliss Joint District, whose superintendent Kevin Lancaster was named the 2020 ISSA Superintendent of the Year, also had no legally required information on its website.

Data analyst Randy Schrader compiled the data for this story. 

Nik Streng

About Nik Streng

Nik Streng graduated with his bachelors degree in creative writing from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., in 2013 and graduated with his master’s in journalism from the University of Oregon. 

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