Helping the public track public spending

When a public school system pays out $14.5 million in performance bonuses to 8,000 teachers, what should the public know about the payments?  Some teachers received nothing, others received $100 and some received $7,000 or more. If you pay taxes in this district, will you know how your money is spent? Houston has an elaborate system for teacher performance pay. The local newspaper, The Houston Chronicle, has made available bonus pay information for every teacher and school. It’s data that may encourage a family to try to place a child in a class taught, for example, by Marjorie Hunt-Bluford, who earned a $7,175 bonus teaching fifth grade. It’s data that helps families understand the functioning of the public schools — in many ways the most basic part of government. A Chronicle column reported that the database had more than 400,000 page views. A school news blog has more than 400 comments relating to a post on the bonuses.  Some readers argued that making this data public is an invasion of privacy. Others thanked The Chronicle for lifting the curtain and giving readers a chance to understand how the system works.

Across the country, the Washington Examiner listed salary information for about 20,000 teachers in one county system. See previous post.

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