Yesterday in Danville, Jim joined KY Chamber President David Adkisson, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, & Danville Superintendent Carmen Coleman to discuss Education Reform.
This time, its our out of line exclusion of English language learners
Questions have already been raised by me and others about Kentucky’s nation-leading exclusion of students with learning disabilities from the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests in 2011.
Now, Education Week reports that Kentucky is also being spotlighted for abnormally high exclusion rates for immigrant students who are still learning English in its public schools.
That just adds to the uncertainty about the real validity of Kentucky’s 2011 scores.
Yesterday, I offered up the first tip in this series which was to know the law as it pertains to open records. Today we talk about something I learned early in my open records efforts: be specific. This is the second piece in our effort the build the perfect open records request.
Specificity is one of the major keys to getting the information you want in a timely and efficient manner. In yesterday’s discussion, one of the reasons to “know the law” was the be able to avoid any loopholes that may allow the agency you are requesting information to avoid your request. Not being specific is one of those loopholes.
Here are some items you want to be specific about in your request:
- The document you want. This can not be stressed enough. If you know the exact name of the document you want, this is the best way to approach a request for information. If not, be as specific in describing the information you want. For instance, it would be ideal to request “the check register outlining expenses by vendor, date, amount, and description for the 2009 and 2010 accounting years” rather than asking for “records of money spent”. The result of the latter will almost always be denied as the request is not specific enough.
- Format. This is important especially if you are requesting large amounts of data. In my experience, it is always best to ask for an electronic copy of the document. Contracts, spending data, and requests that span a long period of time can be quite voluminous and trust me, you do not want to get a box of paper copies in the mail. The virtues of electronic copies will be discussed in a future post. If you want a document in Excel, CSV, paper, etc… make sure you specify this in your initial request. Agencies are not required to create a new document for you but if they have it in the format you want, they are required to provide that to you…so it can’t hurt, right?
- The statute that gives you the right to inspection. As discussed in a previous post, it’s a great idea to cite the statute that grants you the authority in your request. A lot of workers may not be familiar with the law as it pertains to open records and providing them with the statute you are operating within goes a long way towards a timely and effective response.
Jim Waters, Bluegrass Institute’s Vice President of Communications, will be presenting the “Seven Pillars of Freedom” tonight for the Independent Business Association of Campbell County (IBACC) tonight in Alexandria, Kentucky.
The event is open to IBACC members and those interested in joining the group.
Southern Lanes Sports Center
7634 Alexandria Pike
Alexandria, KY 41001
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
7:00 – 8:30 PM
Join us and learn how to help move freedom forward>>
Two researchers say definitely not, once you consider fringe benefits
There is an interesting article in the November 8, 2011 Wall Street Journal from two researchers at the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.
According to Heritage’s Jason Richwine and AEI’s Andrew G. Biggs, once you consider the long summer break that teachers enjoy, their now much better than private sector health care, and their rather generous retirement programs, teachers actually earn about 52 percent more in total compensation than comparably educated individuals in the private sector earn.
How is that possible?
Reports the Journal:
“While salaries are about even, fringe benefits push teacher compensation well ahead of comparable employees in the private economy. The trouble is that many of these benefits are hidden, meaning that lawmakers, taxpayers and even teachers themselves are sometimes unaware of them.”
I’m not ready to say Biggs and Richwine have this right – all such analyses contain some problematic assumptions.
Still, we need to get a handle on what we are really paying our teachers. When lawmakers and even the teachers themselves may not know, that is a major problem.
Today I am beginning a series of posts about some lessons learned regarding the open records request process. These are best practices and tips accumulated over the course of submitting hundreds of requests. Some of these best practices will be specific to Kentucky while others are just general ideas that can apply to just about any state or even federal agency.
TIP #1 – Know and cite the law in your request!
This seems obvious but honestly, it is one of the most important aspects of the request for the following reasons…
- Citing the specific law that gives you access to the records will almost assuredly make sure your request is taken seriously. Whoever receives the request will see that and know that you have an understanding of what it is you are doing.
- Open records laws are often very vague and it is good to know what loopholes are available for agencies to dodge your request. For example, the Kentucky law states that if the request places and “unreasonable burden” on the agency, the agency is not required to fulfill your request. “Unreasonable burden” is not defined and thus creates a vague, gaping loophole in the request process.
- Citing the exact statute helps with another tip that will be featured soon: be specific.
“Pursuant to the state open records law section KRS 61.870 to 61.884 and 61.991, I write to request access to and an electronic copy of…“
More tips and best practices to come!