AFP Testifies on HB 628 by Rep. Tony Dale – Transparency within the education system

March 19, 2013

We at Americans for Prosperity-Texas support HB 628.  It simply states that member of the board of trustees of the district has an inherent right of access to information, documents, and records maintained by the district, and the district shall provide the information, documents, and records to the member without requiring the member to submit a public information request under Chapter 552, Government Code.

School board members have responsibility over the school district.  As a member of the governing body, no school board member should be required to fill out a public information request to get information they deem essential to doing their job.

School board members are elected officials and the public looks to them to both represent them and to provide leadership for their school district.  However, it après that since the revisions in the Education Code made in 1995 and the trustees were defined as a “body corporate” this has provided interpretation regarding the role of the elected school board and superintendents view themselves as the CEO of a corporate board with the salaries and benefits of private sector CEOs.  This concept has worked to eviscerate the authority of the local boards of trustees and vests disproportionate power in the superintendents.  The law states that superintendents work for the board, not the other way around.

Nevertheless, the school board members are responsible for governance and oversight of the district.  They must have access to the information they need to make wise informed decisions.

Various sections of the Texas Education Code address the duties and responsibilities of a board member. Section 11.051 of the Texas Education Code provides, “An independent school district is governed by the board of trustees who, as a body corporate shall oversee the management of the district.”  Tex. Educ. Code § 11.051(a)(1). Additionally, Section 11.151(b) of the Texas Education Code specifies that the “trustees as a body corporate possess the exclusive duty to govern and oversee the management of the public schools of the district ” Tex. Educ. Code § 11.151(b)

This is taken from the TASB website regarding school governance:  The Office of School Governance provides general information and resources on matters related to the powers and duties of the board of trustees of an independent school district under Chapter 11, Subchapter D of the Texas Educations Code (TEC).  In general, the trustees of an independent school district constitute a body corporate and have the exclusive power and duty to govern and oversee the management of the district. All powers and duties not specifically delegated by statute to the Texas Education Agency or to the State Board of Education are reserved for the trustees, and TEA may not substitute its judgment for the lawful exercise of those powers and duties by the trustees. The trustees may adopt rules, such as local policies and procedures, and bylaws necessary to carry out the powers and duties. The board of trustees of a school district or the governing body of an open-enrollment charter school has primary responsibility for ensuring that the district or school complies with all applicable requirements of state educational programs.

We at AFP have one simple question:  if voters elect school board members to represent them and are held responsible for governance of the school district, why would anyone tie their hands and make it difficult for them to obtain the documents and information they need to make informed decision? 

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