“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
These words are as true today as they were when Patrick Henry spoke them at Virginia’s Constitutional Convention. Government secrecy breeds corruption and distrust; transparency is the antidote.
This is a lesson that the nominating panel for the Philadelphia School Board should take to heart. Lisa Haver of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools urged transparency this week in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed. She expressed dismay that the panel “turned its back on the public” with its plans to deliberate in private.
Ms. Haver is absolutely correct in expecting openness when taxpayers’ money and children’s education are at stake. Yet, for decades the Philadelphia teachers’ union and the district have negotiated contracts behind closed doors. Last year’s closed door negotiations resulted in a teacher contract $245 million more expensive than budgeted.
It is unjust to keep taxpayers in the dark regarding these contract negotiations while forcing them to foot the bill. This is why we’ve supported SB 168 sponsored by Sen. Pat Stefano to ensure contract transparency for local government, including school district contracts.
The district faces numerous challenges, including nearly 150 of the worst-performing schools in the state, school violence, chronic debt, and a looming pension crisis. Yet, the Philadelphia School District is entering a new chapter.
The nominating panel has an opportunity to recommend a different kind of school board – one that values students more than unions. One that will stand up for taxpayers. To do that, transparency is vital. The nominating panel should be leading by example, setting an expectation of transparency for school board actions in the future.