FOIAs: another step of accontabiliity and transparency

I have heard some rumors of FOIA activity in regards to the school district. Instead of propagating rumors, I am going to see what comes out in the public sphere. I have also asked 1) if the school district is currently publishing all FOIA responses, and 2) if not, will they consider it. I have since learned the answer to the first question is no – I am now waiting on the second question.

The University has a very nice FOIA page (a whole subdomain dedicated to FOIA):

http://www.foia.uillinois.edu/cms/one.aspx?portalId=1017570&pageId=1083933

I really love how they set the tone:

“The goal of the FOIA request log is transparency for the public and increased understanding of the FOIA process and timelines.”

The University FOIA homepage says:

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides public access to government documents and records. The new Illinois FOIA notes that it is “the public policy of the State of Illinois that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts and policies of those who represent them as public officials and public employees consistent with the terms of this Act. Such access is necessary to enable the people to fulfill their duties of discussing public issues fully and freely, making informed political judgments and monitoring government to ensure that it is being conducted in the public interest.”

That last sentence is a kicker – wow. That’s right, you and I have a duty, and it is to talk about these public issues, make informed decisions and monitor government to make sure they are doing what we want them to do. Now how often does that actually happen?

So my question to you – in the grand scheme of things, how important is a FOIA index? Something I should push hard for? Or just send occasional requests? Surely there are “big issues” on the plate, and I am not sure this is one of them. However, from my point of view, it seems like low-hanging fruit that would be easy to knock out without much overhead at all.

2012-2013 Kindergarten Lottery data released

I have finally received the Kindergarten Lottery data:

https://thecitizen4blog.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/champaign-k-cc-ses-lottery-2012-13_cleaned.xlsx

I have not yet added this to my online database, but will do so later today. I was a tad disappointed that my request to standardize the data was not satisfied – my hope is that we will stop using Alves and thus the standarization temporarily becomes a moot issue. I need to follow up with Dr. Wiegand about that.

So all you number crunchers – go have fun. I have also heard a rumor (via a poster on chambanamoms.com) that someone else is creating databases and charts from U4 data. Let me know if you are that person, because I would like to collaborate a little.

Putting every FOIA response online: good idea or bad?

Another thought occurred to me; is there a precedent set at any level of government where all FOIA requests and responses are posted online? It seems to me (naive as I am about such things) that this is a true FAQ, not the kool-aid version we so often get from canned questions. This seems to me an easy, low-hanging-fruit way to build transparency into the system.

 

Am I missing something? I realize there is some administrative overhead involved, but I do not believe that is enough of an obstacle to put the kibosh on the idea. Are there legal ramifications? I mean, the whole point of the Freedom of Information Act is to push public information into the public sphere. Right now, we only do half the job (FOIA requests are sent to an individual – who knows what happens to it after that).

 

I suggested this to Beth Shepperd in March of 2011. At one point, I also saw a link that had an index of FOIA requests, but I am no longer able to find it. And in June 2010 I offered to Tom Lockman that I could help index all the documents and reports they have on the website. Seems like such a long time ago…..

 

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