To the editor:
Lawrence citizens have repeatedly asked the school board for comprehensive budget information. Only summary reports are published on the district Web site, and the budget documents available at the district office are not current and contain numerous significant entries with vague descriptions like “miscellaneous.”
Why is it so difficult to get useful information about our school budget? Other cities, including Manhattan, publish the complete budget online, and involve the public integrally in the analysis and planning.
School board members seem to believe they are operating openly and with transparency because they permit citizens to speak at public meetings. Our elected officials don’t seem to get it yet. We are not just requesting an audience; we want a seat at the table.
The budget is tight, to be sure. But that does not justify compromising our democratic ideals or giving up on the things we hold dear. Even in times of crisis, openness should not give way to opacity, and expediency is never a substitute for consensus. Until the school board meets minimum standards of transparency, the people of Lawrence should presume there are ways to address current fiscal challenges without resorting to draconian measures like shuttering schools.
The decisions we make today will profoundly affect the fabric of our community for generations to come. So instead of giving us “false choices” borne out of haste, the district should open its books to the public and engage us in a real debate about OUR priorities for our schools and neighborhoods.