The Pennsylvania Senate's Education Committee has unanimously approved a bill that would add transparency to the cost of school superintendent buyouts in the state's 501 school districts.
While the Pennsylvania General Assembly has sometimes been hesitant to expand transparency at various levels of government - and hardly ever in its own house - this bill is a step forward in allowing taxpayers to know just how their money is being spent.
Under the veil of personnel negotiations, school boards have been able to deploy golden parachutes for superintendents they want to be rid of prior to the terminal dates of their contracts, without an explanation to those people footing he bill.
The bill was spurred by high profile buyouts down-state, where the settlements ran well into six figures, and there even the state's Auditor General had difficulty prying information about the deals from the school districts.
Thankfully, the only early superintendent departure in Warren County in recent memory wasn't nearly so expensive or quite as secretive.
Nevertheless, the point of the bill is not the largesse involved in buyouts, but the secrecy involved.
"What Sen. (Jeff) Piccola is doing in this legislation is preventing secrecy in the contract process, and we commend him for it," said Auditor General Jack Wagner. We also commend the Education Committee chairman, a Republican from Dauphin County.
Public school superintendents occupy extremely important and sometimes difficult positions in a community, acting as chief executive officers of an organization whose operation affects the lives of virtually everyone in that community in some fashion. It is also an organization which extracts the majority of local property taxes for its revenue. As such, the taxpayers who fund that organization have a right to expect as much transparency as possible.