Win for Transparency in Public School Spending

How would you like to know what’s in a teachers’ contract before your school district passes it—and locks in spending—for four years? And how would you like to track how all public schools spend money once they receive it?

Thanks to two new bills that passed the Pennsylvania State House last week, state taxpayers may soon be able to do both.

HB 1741, sponsored by Rep. Fred Keller (R-Snyder, Union), requires school districts to post a new contract 48 hours before a school board votes on it, and publicize it in a local newspaper. The contract has to remain public for 30 days after the voting meeting.

HB 1411 creates SchoolWATCH, an online database of the Pennsylvania Department of Education to record all flows of revenue and spending to school districts, vo-techs, charter and cyber charter schools. This includes grants, loans, debt servicing and construction, though it does not includes individual employee salaries (except for administrators) in the initially phase. The database will also post all current union contracts.

SchoolWATCH, sponsored by Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) requires all school districts to post their budgets within a year of the bill’s passage.

The bills are a win for taxpayers, who have seen both public education spending and property taxes climb steadily in the last 15 years. Better transparency will also ultimately help Pennsylvania students, who deserve schools that prioritize learning.