Saturday, March 29, 2008

One Small Step for Kentucky Schools

Once and while, even in Frankfort, an issue comes along to which the answer is clear-cut even to to those who come from different political parties and philosophies. Buried beneath all the rancor of competing proposed budgets for Kentucky is such an issue.

The Senate's proposed budget includes language that would give schools flexibility in how to publish certain required information; the Senate version would allow schools to use the Internet to meet their public notice requirements.

Kentucky law requires schools to notify members of the public that they can review their school district's annual financial statement and school report cards of aggregate CATS test results. At present, schools must publish these legal notices in the newspaper with the largest circulation for the area.

For a small school district in proximity to a big newspaper, that is a very expensive -- and unfunded -- mandate. The Courier-Journal, for example, charges thousands of dollars to publish these notices.

The Senate proposes language that would let schools continue to publish in the newspaper, if they so choose, but also would allow publication via the Internet. The Kentucky School Board Association has urged the legislature to make this change for many years.

In the earliest days of the Internet, perhaps legislators justifiably could worry that not enough members of the public were on-line to satisfy the purpose of the notice requirements. That is no longer the case.

If anything, the success of the Internet has jeopardized traditional print media to the point where even Old School newspapers publish on-line. There's an irony: schools are forced to pay to appear in newspapers that then publish on-line, when the school could skip the newspaper as middleman and get the same result for free. Consequently, the current publication law enriches the newspaper industry to the detriment of our children.

Moreover, residents who want to review information about the local school are far more likely to click on the school district's web site than to get out magnifying glasses to read the legal notices in the newspaper.

This is not a hard call. If the Senate, the General Assembly and the Governor can at least agree on this small change, then at least this legislative session will have produced one good thing. It's not much, but it's better than nothing.

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