Coloradans, You Can Make a Difference for School Financial Transparency

Update, 1/29: More coverage on Colorado Spending Transparency and Ed News Colorado, as well as a kind link from the Open Records blog.

This morning the Colorado Senate Education Committee got a bit of a surprise, it might seem, with a slew of concerned citizens coming forward to testify in support of Senate Bill 57 (PDF) (sponsored by state senator Ted Harvey) – which would bring something akin to full-fledged financial transparency to Colorado public schools.

It’s unusual to see more than 15 average citizens come forward to testify for a piece of legislation – and rarer yet, to have many of them do so quite eloquently. Most were from the metro Denver area, a couple hailed from Weld County, and one of them drove three hours over the mountains for the chance to speak three minutes.

They included former corporate executives who explained how enlisting employee support yielded tremendous cost savings (just like can be done by creating an online spending database to get public eyes on the government books). They included former elected local government officials who said in their esteemed positions they often didn’t have access to the sort of detailed financial information that such easy-to-create databases could usefully provide average citizens.

They included parents, small business owners, political activists, people who have had horribly frustrating experiences making Colorado Open Records Act requests, one local lady who showed how easily she created her own searchable database, and at least one person taking a vacation from his day job. Two local bloggers – Jack Ott and David Williams – lent their voices in support of the bill.

It was a proud moment to see the grassroots come to life and show a little victory over everyday apathy that too often cripples us.

Lobbyists for the Colorado Association of School Boards and Colorado Association of School Executives, as well as a high-ranking bureaucrat for Colorado Springs School District 11 all testified against Senate Bill 57. The only lobbyist who spoke up for SB 57 was on behalf of the Colorado Press Association – a reliable ally on issues of open government.

The committee, chaired by Senator Bob Bacon, recessed to take lunch at noon after the prolonged – and often passionate and compelling – testimony. The committee is scheduled to reconvene tomorrow (Thursday) under the golden dome at 1:30 PM. You can listen in by following this link and clicking on “Senate Committee Room 354″. (We can be thankful for that bit of transparency in our state government.)

If you want to see this issue go forward for a full vote of the Colorado state senate, you may contact each of the education committee members directly and share your thoughts:

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