Tuesday, January 23, 2007

D-300 closes out the public

What is next, will yes voters, parents and taxpayers learn? If we do not learn from history the referenda that Arndt is planning for 2011 (only 4 years away) will pass. District 15 in McHenry promised to pay back taxpayers several years ago. They reneged, never paid them back and asked for more with another referendum. The District 15 referendum passed not because many parents trusted the board but because they felt they had no choice. The board and district held the taxpayers' children's education over their head, many felt they had no choice but to vote yes. The result of spineless yes voters is only to ensure districts will use the same tactics to pass future referenda.

The article below appeared in the Northwest Herald editorial section.

D-300 closes out the public

District 300 officials have needlessly closed meetings, locking members of the public out of the public’s business.

In doing so, the district is being disrespectful to its constituents and risks violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act. District officials sorely need a reality check. On this issue, they have lost their way.

Let’s make a couple of things clear: Although the Open Meetings Act states that public bodies can sometimes close a meeting, it never states that a meeting must be closed. The law simply states that there are times – exceptions – when a public body can choose to close a meeting.

The intent of the law is for governmental entities in Illinois to conduct their business in public. Even when there might be cause to close a meeting, public officials should consider whether closing the proceeding really is necessary. Unfortunately, instead of looking to keep as many meetings as possible open to the public, officials often will do the opposite and search for any excuse to close the proceedings.

Generally, meetings can be closed for reasons such as personnel matters, land acquisition, and pending litigation. District 300 officials have interpreted this to mean that they can close any meeting relating to Superintendent Ken Arndt meeting his goals for the district because that information will be used to evaluate Arndt.

By this logic, just about every meeting District 300 has should be closed to the public. Clearly this is not a correct interpretation of the law. In another instance, district officials closed a meeting to discuss lightning in relation to an outdoor graduation ceremony. The reason given to close the meeting? Security.

District 300’s practice of closing these meetings creates the perception that it is trying to hide something – or things – from the public.

District 300 officials need to, individually, read the Open Meetings Act. They then need to change their thinking and policies relating to when a meeting should be closed. A safe rule of thumb for District 300 is this: When in doubt, keep the meetings open.

Quote of the Day

Whenever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery. -- (1874) Benjamin Disraeli

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