Sharing government data, Colorado school districts edition

Sharing government data with the public really does create a culture of accountability. The Denver Post analyzed spending data for Colorado’s three largest school districts and this forced Denver Public Schools to take action:

After queries from The Post, DPS officials Friday sent an e-mail to principals and staff announcing cost controls.

“Effective immediately, we will be restricting food purchases and travel expenses,” the message said.

Food may still be purchased for community meetings but no longer for internal staff meetings. Administrators are asking staffers to participate in “virtual conferences” rather than paying for out-of-state travel.

Among the expenses were $4,113 for doughnuts and burritos (Montbello High School) and $1,174 for a Dave & Buster’s year-end party (Lincoln High School). Lincoln seems to be one of the worst offenders, charging $161,000 to district-issued credit cards. North High School charged less than $14,000. (But North has bigger problems).

Many commenters on the article seem to think this isn’t a big deal, that the amounts of money involved are relatively small, and why shouldn’t teachers get some coffee?  But public school systems shouldn’t be paying for coffee and food and entertainment for their staff or for parents or for students, especially in a time of serious budgetary problems. Most families have to cut back right now; so should the government workers they support.