E3 (Excellent Education for Everyone), a terrific organization devoted to improving urban public education through parental choice, alerted me to this article on public education accountability, written by Gregg Edwards, president of the Center for Policy Research of New Jersey.

Edwards runs the numbers, showing that student enrollment has shrunk, while the number of professional staff has increased – contributing to the second-highest per-pupil spending in the country. Needless to say, educational achievement has not experienced a commensurate increase, nor have costs been cut.

He points out how the system is inherently flawed:

“A school district typically provides its taxpayers with little relevant information about itself. Per-pupil expenditures, academic test results and work force size – to name just a few performance indicators – often are not publicized by the school district. It is critical that a school district provide this information directly and regularly to taxpayers. It also must be remembered that in most communities, the number of taxpayers who don’t have children attending public schools outnumbers those who do. Lacking direct connections to the school system, these taxpayers are likely to know little about their public schools.

“But those who manage public education have no incentive to provide this information. For example, acknowledging that enrollment is declining would put unwanted pressure on them to reduce overhead. Theoretically, school boards should be representing the broad interests of taxpayers. The election process, however, favors the selection of board members who are inclined to represent the more narrow interests of those seeking to protect and increase spending.”

To remedy this asymmetrical information, Edwards calls for greater transparency at the local level, in a useful format that can be analyzed by taxpayers.

Many school districts throughout the country have already posted their check registers online – a movement that began in Texas and has gained traction throughout the country. A full list of all local districts that post their check registers online can be found here.

Their rallying cry: No taxation without information!