CLEVELAND - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio blasted part of a schools proposal by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson that would exempt the school oversight board from the state’s Sunshine Laws. Mayor Jackson plans to solicit sponsors in the Ohio General Assembly to make this proposal a state law. The Sunshine Laws refer to Ohio’s Open Meetings and Public Records Act, which allows the public access to meetings and documents that pertain to government business.
“Taxpayers have a right to know what is happening in their schools. There is no excuse for secrecy, and begs the question, ‘What do they have to hide?’” said ACLU of Ohio Director of Communications & Public Policy Mike Brickner. “Allowing a board charged with oversight to operate in the shadows defies logic and opens the door to corruption and abuse.”
“Secrecy only creates more doubt and mistrust among the public. Schools should operate in the open to ensure taxpayers and parents are aware and invested in the important work they do,” added Brickner. “What is most disappointing about this proposal is that it fails to recognize the important role the public plays in the success of schools. Instead of encouraging public participation, the plan stifles it.”
The plan comes during national Sunshine Week, which runs from March 11-17, 2012. Journalists established the weeklong celebration to raise access to public records and open meetings.
“Before state leaders formally propose this legislation, they must ensure the people have a place at the table by guaranteeing all aspects of the program are subject to Ohio’s Sunshine Laws,” said Brickner. “Anything less will only undermine their work, and instill mistrust in the people who want to be part of the reform of our school systems.”