in Houston, Texas
Under new commissioner Michael Williams, Texas Education Agency refuses to answer simple questions from the public
Thursday, Sep 06, 2012, 12:00PM CST
By Steve Miller
be quiet

The Dallas Morning News notices the same thing we do: Dealing with the Texas Education Agency is much less pleasant than it used to be, especially when it comes to getting public records.

“With all the turnover at the state education agency, including a new commissioner, the communications staff is under a new directive that keeps information from the public and the news media,” the Morning News reports. “Spokespeople now aren’t allowed to provide updates to the public about TEA investigations or complaints sent to the agency.”

Considering that Michael Williams, the new education commissioner, said when he was running for U.S. Congress, “We need to bring greater transparency to spending to curtail waste, reform the flawed earmark process, and control the growth of government,” it’s funny how quickly the tune has changed. The office has become the classic example of the muddled bureaucracy that he claims to disdain.

Earlier this year we sent a request for TEA records regarding teachers sanctioned for cheating on the state academic test. After numerous emails and conversations with people who had no idea what open records were – we finally realized the TEA was having clerks call us to try and understand what we wanted – we got a few things and a cost estimate for $2,380. We contested the charges in late April – read our trail of tears here – and await some resolution. Seems like a long time, right? We’ve been told that there has been some obfuscation on the part of the TEA in responding to our argument.


There has been quite a tightening at the state level, controlling information and keeping the officials who make the decisions away from the media – consider the item we wrote in 2010, same problem, different office, the Secretary of State.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Comments
slford
Friday, 09/07/2012 - 11:42AM

Thank you for posting this article! We have had the same treatment and been billed the same outrageous costs which do not translate to open and transparent government. I think this has become just another revenue stream which is not 'transparency for all', but limited to those who can spend $2000.00 plus on government records. Which technology integrating in our lives at the rate it is going, there is just no excuse for this.

We have also seen this treatment when requesting records from our school district. They charge the highest overhead fees they can get away with which makes the total bill incredibly high. Some records they won't provide at all. They claim it violates copyright laws, when we have seen the same copies made from other districts. Transparency should be for all the public, not just for those who can afford it There needs to be oversight for this. This must change.

Peggy Venable
Tuesday, 09/11/2012 - 04:36PM

I believe that our new Education Commissioner Michael Williams started on September 4th - just a week ago. Let's let the guy get his feet on the ground! I am hopeful that we will continue to be able to get the information that we want and improve transparency in education. But it's just too soon to jump to conclusions about how TEA will look under new leadership.

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