It's the thought that counts only sometimes.
When the Monitor newspaper in McAllen on Tuesday published the salaries of local school district employees, the outcry came loud and fast. Some threatened to cancel their subscriptions, while others claimed the public outing of taxpayer-funded expenditures threatened the safety of those named.
The newspaper, in a rather abashed mea culpa, removed the offending data from its website and on Thursday published an apology.
Now it's not known whether those very public records will ever show up again on the Monitor's site. From the apology:
Once we have compiled the salary information for all districts, we will perform due diligence and report, in the best interests of all taxpayers, where there might be anomalies that call for further explanation from elected officials and, where appropriate, administrators. We plan to provide you the key information that will help you be better informed and make those decisions for yourself.
That does not mean we plan on “exposing” every single public school employee salary in every district in Hidalgo County.
The comments on the "I'm sorry" posting from the paper are a good place to read various views of openness.
"Teachers are people too, and have every right to privacy," one person writes. Another fires off, "All educators should cancel their subscription, individual and for the classroom."
Another astute poster sends readers to the Rand site, where one can access overall and average school salaries, though not individuals', for a fee. Still one more directs readers to the treasure trove that is the Texas Tribune's database, where you can look up salaries, by name, of teachers in a number of districts -- but not for the districts first published by the Monitor.
Then there's the local CBS affiliate, which broadcast the story of an angered school district employee.
As a postscript, we note that it was employee salary information --- and the act of shining a light on it --- that sparked an investigation last year into misappropriation of public funds in tiny Bell, Calif., where the city manager was making almost $800,000 a year. The public information has led to the arrest of that official and others.
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Photo of school supplies by flickr user stevendepolo, used via a Creative Commons license.