How To Investigate The Finances of Your Local Public School

Taxpayers have a right to know how money is spent at their local schools. Problem today is, once you start asking questions, you open yourself to uncalled criticism.

My time into looking at public education finances came about when a story here in Indianapolis broke in 2011 about a superintendent negotiating  $1 Million buyout clause in his contract. That then rolled over with me just reading local news clippings on school finances, attending local school board meetings and just overall interaction with those in public education. What I found was alarming compared to the rhetoric coming from the public education proponents.

Two thirds or more of school budgets are payroll consisting of salaries and benefits. School budgets can be obtained through the schools website or by contacting the schools treasurer. Here in Indiana you can go to a website portal through the state and look at teachers salaries.

Most of the public doesn’t realize this, but a growing number of school boards offer free healthcare to its elected board members. I stumbled upon that one year here locally during a vote for higher property taxes. School boards are also being filled with members who are economically illiterate and will toe the line for the school system on budget issues. Don’t be afraid to show up and ask difficult questions.

Another is salary vs. total compensation package. Administrators usually get high-end perks the public usually never hears about. These are often negotiated right at school board meetings that the public barely attends. EAGnews.com gives a perfect example of how school districts try to mask this.  They’ll say X superintendent is paid $230,000/yr salary. What they don’t publish is the other $80,000 in benefits.

Any body of government should welcome taxpayers looking at their financial books. School districts over the years have grown egos and have become very combative when it’s questioned. If you suspect something is not right, do the research yourself and then possibly contact local media for help.

Always be prepared for massive criticism if you find something because it will happen.

Good luck!

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