Most Idaho schools districts and charters are not in compliance with Idaho’s website transparency laws.
An Idaho EdNews investigation of 186 districts and charter websites found that only about one-third (58 out of 186) provide easy public access to five required components. EdNews staff reviewed the websites in May and June with random checks in July. (Some districts updated their websites after they were contacted by EdNews for this story.)
To promote transparency of school business, all Idaho public school districts and charter websites are required to post:
- Monthly financial information including all expenditures
- Vendor and personnel contracts (plus master labor agreements, if applicable)
- Continuous Improvement Plan
- Title IX: compliance officer, staff training, harassment policy and procedures for complaints.
Districts and charters most often fail to post all contracts and updated expenditures, which are supposed to be updated monthly. Some districts will post a “budget summary” but that doesn’t meet the state requirement. Most all districts and charters were compliant with the new federal Title IX requirements and at posting their continuous improvement plans.
The Idaho controller’s office wants school leaders to see compliance with these laws as an opportunity to be more transparent to taxpayers, patrons and parents, as opposed to an onerous obligation.
“The whole thing is a chance to tell your story,” state controller Brandon Woolf said to EdNews. “How can we work with counties, local governments, and districts to be more transparent?”
There are no penalties for failing to comply.
Here’s a breakdown of EdNews’ investigation of 186 websites as of July 1:
- 61 posted all five compliance elements (Boise, West Ada, Cassia County, Council, Marsh Valley, Pocatello, St Maries, Garden Valley, Idaho Falls, Swan Valley Elementary, Boundary County, Nampa, Notus, Melba, Parma, Soda Springs, Clark County, Glenns Ferry, Horseshoe Bend, Mountain Home, Potlatch, Preston, West Side, Emmett Independent, Cottonwood, Mountain View, Jefferson County, Lakeland, Kootenai, Moscow, Whitepine, Salmon, Nezperce, Shoshone, Sugar-Salem, Minidoka County, Lapwai, Payette, New Plymouth, Fruitland, Twin Falls, Buhl, Kimberly, McCall-Donnelly, Weiser, Victory Charter, Compass Charter, Liberty Charter, Taylors Crossing Charter, Xavier Charter, Isucceed Virtual High, Sage International Of Boise, Legacy Charter, Idaho College & Career Readiness Academy, Coeur D’Alene Charter Academy, North Star Charter, Alturas International, Future Public, Forge International, Moscow Charter, Mosaic, Alturas Preparatory Academy.)
- 42 posted four of five
- 30 posted three of five
- 25 posted two of five
- 18 one of five
- 10 posted none
School leaders describe a variety of reasons for failing to meet the reporting laws, from time to not fully understanding what’s required.
In the Bonneville School District, which serves over 3,000 students on the east side of the state, public information officer Phil Campbell emailed EdNews a link to its master agreement — the contract between teachers and the district. While this booklet lays out teacher pay, it does not showcase every teacher contract, which is required.
The Blaine County School District was missing most of the required elements on its website in June. But school leaders updated the site after being contacted by EdNews.
At the Payette River Regional Technical Academy, principal Patrick Goff also reacted to improve the site after being contacted by EdNews.
“I handed that off and didn’t keep up on making sure it was done,” Goff said in an email. “I have that being updated ASAP to keep it in compliance.”
Goff also is the new superintendent in Garden Valley, which is in full compliance with the website laws.
Larger districts like Boise use staff size to their advantage. District spokesman Dan Hollar said in an email that Boise has a “team of individuals responsible for each of the 5 ‘boxes’ who make sure we are transparent and compliant.”
The state controller’s office is developing a new site, Transparent Idaho, that could help districts and charters publicly share their expenditures. The districts send expenditures to the State Board of Education, which is then supposed to share those expenditure with the controller’s office to put on the Transparent Idaho site. Districts and charters are then required to put the Transparent Idaho link on their websites. Only one of 186 has so far complied. Transparent Idaho is to be fully operational by Jan. 1, 2025.
“We don’t need a closeup or an intricate breakdown every month, we just need a running statement of expenditures,” said chief deputy controller John Iasonides. “If we just communicate the basic transaction’s importance, we hope to create a snowball effect of districts reporting.”
Data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this story.