The well-respected Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll each year asks Americans to grade the public schools closest to them, as well as schools across the nation. In the 40 years since the poll began, respondents have consistently awarded the schools closest to them the highest grades and schools far away the lowest grades.
In other words, they believe the schools they know best perform better than those they know the least. To that end, parents and taxpayers are well served with information in Indiana’s annual school performance reports. You can find reports for Fort Wayne Community Schools and East Allen County Schools in today’s paper.
Look beyond the A-F letter grades for a broader picture of performance. What’s the percentage of students in special education? What’s the percentage of students learning English as a second language? How many students are in alternative education programs?
District-level reports show the percentage of spending for academic-related purposes, as well as overhead and operations costs.
For taxpayers, however, there’s a gaping hole in accountability. Reports are available for public schools, including charters; not for voucher schools. The state awarded almost $116 million to private and parochial schools in 2014-15, but the General Assembly does not require posting and publication of voucher school performance reports.
If lawmakers are committed to transparency in public spending, they will fix that oversight to ensure the performance reports serve their intended purpose.