I'm a big fan of transparency in government, whether that government is on the national, state, or local level. I think government works best when it's operating in the light of day, and here in Wisconsin we're fortunate to have open records laws that allow citizens to be able to request information from their government. Exactly 10 days ago today (April 10, 2009), I made use of our state's open records laws to submit a request to the School District of South Milwaukee (through Superintendent David Ewald) for information regarding administrative compensation, specifically the pay raises the school district's administrators have received over the past four years. I've been told administrators have received raises in the neighborhood of 13% over the previous two years, a figure that doesn't include the 4.1% raise the South Milwaukee school board just gave to administrators for the 2008-09 school year. If the figures I've heard are correct, then a 17.1% raise over three years certainly seems generous, but rather than believe everything I hear, I want to get the facts for myself, hence the open records request.
According to the statute governing open records requests, the authority responsible for handling such requests shall, "as soon as practicable and without delay, either fill the request or notify the requester of the authority's determination to deny the request in whole or in part and the reasons therefor." As I mentioned, I made my request 10 days ago, and I have yet to receive a reply from anyone in the South Milwaukee School District regarding my request, which got me to wondering...what constitutes "as soon as practicable and without delay?" A few days, a few weeks...what's the time frame? What's more, how long will it take the South Milwaukee School District to honor the request I sent?
I'll be curious to see what the real numbers are concerning the raises given to South Milwaukee school district administrators over the past few years, because I'm willing to bet those raises are somewhere between 15 and 20 percent over those three years. If that's the case, it won't be long before South Milwaukee has the highest paid school district administrators in Southeastern Wisconsin, despite the district's yearly budget problems. I'll be equally curious to see how long it takes the school district to respond to my open records request, because I would have thought 10 days would have been more than enough time for a request as simple and straightforward as mine.