If you've been following the AAPS budget proposals, then you know that one of the proposed cuts is to cut busing to Ann Arbor Open. The co-chairs of the Ann Arbor Open Coordinating Committee immediately started brainstorming a) how to stop this and b) if cuts were needed, what could the school offer instead as alternatives?
Fair enough. The only thing is, the budget proposal had a round number estimate for all savings from transportation cuts, and that included cuts at several other schools. What portion of that is related to Ann Arbor Open?
The co-chairs put in a request to the Ann Arbor schools. Then they received--in the mail, not by email (even though they submitted the request by email)--the district's form FOIA response asking for an additional ten days to respond. (And they could get even more time, under the FOIA process.)
You see the problem, don't you? The budget timeline and the FOIA timeline don't match up very well.
At tonight's board meeting, during public commentary, a member of the Ann Arbor Open community (perhaps more than one) brought up that they would like to present alternatives, but they don't know how much they would be asked to save, because they hadn't gotten the information they asked for about the transportation expenses.
After public comment, trustee Simone Lightfoot followed up with a question about how parents should get information, and Pat Green, the Superintendent, said that the proper process was to FOIA information, that would be "fairest" to all.
Actually, I would call that, most obstreperous and obstinate. And idiotic, too.
Honestly, since I started this blog, most of the time I've just asked nicely for information--from Ann Arbor, Saline, Ypsilanti, Willow Run, and the WISD--and I've gotten it. If it is to be easily gotten, what is the problem with just providing it? The one time I had to FOIA something, it was for detailed historic data--which does make sense.
But recently, Pat Lesko wrote about having to FOIA data on class sizes--data that she was told didn't exist, but actually did exist. I wrote about that here.
And now, Ann Arbor Open parents are told that they have to FOIA information about the projected savings from transportation cuts in a budget proposal?
Is this a new policy, promulgated by a new superintendent? You're not making any friends here with this policy, Pat Green. It's wrong.
If the district is basing expected savings in the budget on hard numbers, then it should be easy to provide those calculations to families whose lives will be affected by these proposals. It should be easy to explain what the savings will be for cutting transportation to the various schools--by school. It should be easy to detail the savings from closing or moving Roberto Clemente. Unless they are based on. . . data that doesn't exist?
Let's assume for now that data does exist.
There's a reason for a formal FOIA process. But there is also a reason
that an informal process is often the preferred alternative, not just
for the ask-ers, but also for the ask-ees.
If a policy is necessary, I can imagine a school district policy that matches what the district has done previously.
If it's relatively easy to get the data, just respond to the request.
If it's difficult or complicated in some way, ask for a FOIA request. Ed Vielmetti pointed out to me, for instance, that in the teacher contract there is language around FOIA'ing lesson plans.
Obviously, lesson plans are not current budget proposals that are being debated by the current school board and that have a timeliness factor involved.
I could get my friends to flood the district with FOIA requests. I don't want to do that. And I'm quite sure the district doesn't want to have to respond to tons of FOIA requests. That might prove my point, but it's not particularly helpful.
No--what I want is a district that is responsive to parents' and taxpayers' requests, with the least drama possible.
By the way, I've learned a lot about the FOIA process from Ed Vielmetti. Read my post about FOIA, and more, (with links to some of his posts) right here.