School districts, despite designing the curriculum for civics courses, are generally allergic to transparency. They prefer to take their ever-increasing slice of the General Fund pie, in addition to local property taxes, without having to show taxpayers how their money was spent. It appears they often forget that they are spending the public's money and as such have a responsibility to justify and identify each expenditure.

This troublesome trait reared its head earlier this year when the largest school district in the state, Jefferson County, which has an annual budget of over $1 Billion, refused to open its negotiations with the teacher's union to the public. As teacher salaries and benefits represent the vast majority of the district's budget, it would seem only logical that to provide true transparency you'd need to open up the salary and benefit negotiation to the public.

Unfortunately, the school board felt otherwise and held the negotiations in secret.

This allergy to transparency is popping up again, this time a few miles north of JeffCo in the Thomson school district that encompasses Loveland and Berthoud. The district is proposing a local $153.6 Million tax increase for school funding for this year's ballot, on top of the $3 Billion tax hike known as Prop 103 proposed by Boulder Senator Rollie Heath.

In an effort to find out how the existing budget was being spent, local liberty activist and head of Liberty Watch, Nancy Rumfelt, has been filing Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests regarding current district spending. The district has responded to some of the requests, but included bills into the hundreds of dollars for doing so. 

Many of the things Rumfelt has asked for are simple data points like how much the district spent on a poll gauging support for the tax increase and the total budget for the Thomson online school. As Rumfelt is a citizen activist, without the financial backing of super heiresses like Pat Stryker, the burden of the CORA request costs have added up.

In fitting with her local activist profile, Rumfelt is hosting a bake sale in Loveland tomorrow to raise the money for the requests (full details after the jump). The money raised will go directly towards greater transparency. Treats for transparency if you will. Per Liberty Watch:

The monies raised will be used to pay the fees required for access to  the data and then also to publish ads in the local newspaper so that citizens can have access to all facts and issues related to 3A Mill Levy Override tax increase. While the mill levy override is a local issue, the issue of transparency in government affects us all and government answers to citizens which many public officials and employees seem to have forgotten!

Other Northern Colorado activists, like Amy Oliver, are adding their own baked goods, with Oliver contributing "clarity cookies" and "procurement poundcake" to the fundraiser.

Just as Ross Kaminsky has found a novel way to finance his political commentary through derivatives trading, Rumfelt is using her own grassroots approach to funding her quest for greater transparency.   Conservatives simply don't have the resources afforded to the Left in Colorado by their billionaire backers. They have to be inventive.

We'd love to see Jenny Flanagan out there hawking cupcakes and candy canes to fund Common Cause Colorado, but that probably wouldn't make a dent in their lawyer fees used to sue anything that's conservative and moves. Much easier to just deposit Pat Stryker's latest six figure check. 

Cupcakes for Transparency in Education
401 S. Lincoln Ave Loveland CO
Saturday October 8, 2011
Amy Oliver will be there with "clarity Cookies" and "Procurement Poundcake"
Join us for some fun as we sell some cupcakes, cookies and more!
Questions? Send an email to: [email protected]