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Monday, May 16, 2016

The district is charging for information

I recently did a piece on Dinsmore elementary using nearly 12 thousand dollars of title I funds on a field trip. I heard from readers that it was happening at other schools too.  So I asked the district to let me know how many field trips had occurred this year that had cost ten thousand dollars or more and were paid for with title I funds.

This is what the district told me:

Your request has required extensive clerical support, supervisory assistance or extensive use of information technology resources and/or costs to copy the requested documents. To produce the request, it will require 30 hours to create, collect or redact these records at a base hourly rate of $17.60.

Please note that we are estimating the number of hours to research and create the requested report. If you wish us to proceed forward at this time with the current information we have gathered, a payment of $528.00 is required in advance of commencing work; therefore, please remit your check payable to:

They also pointed out that charging me was perfectly legal. Pursuant to Florida Statute 119.07(4)(d), the District, as custodian of the records, may charge fees to cover any extensive clerical support, supervisory assistance, extensive use of information technology resources and/or costs to copy the requested documents.

I get it in a way too. We don't want the district to have to go on time consuming fishing expeditions or be forced to research minutia.

That being said, I thought I asked a legitimate question that the city deserves to know the answer to.

I will also say the district is usually fairly good with answering my initial question but often initial questions lead to follow up questions and its there where I am stopped in my tracks.

It makes me wonder how many stories are out there right now that we will never hear about that the district has insulated or protected itself from by charging a fee and a steep fee at that?

The statute says they can charge, it doesn't mean that they have to.

If the media and no I don't include myself in that category or ordinary citizens have to pay to have questions answered then transparency is destroyed and our schools cease to be truly public. 


  1. Sounds like Vitti is stealing a page from Angela Corey's playbook. The best way to deal with public records requests is to stonewall.

  2. So, just to be clear the district does not keep track of how we spend Title 1 dollars? I wonder what else we don't keep track of? Title2A? Reading funds? In order to avoid fiscal irresponsibility there should be a line item that indicates how much money is spent on field trips. You shouldn't even have to add or research anything just look at the bottom line and what is allocated. Sounds like stonewalling to me.

  3. This is great news! Can we charge them for the paperwork, copying, research we do after hours. To my calculation they owe me about $7,900.00

  4. Do these people not have excel? If it's really as time consuming as they claim then the county has bigger issues than I thought. It should take a few keystrokes not 30 hours of intensive labor. I'm sure you could train some 3rd graders to retrieve this info in no time. But the bottom line is they don't want to answer the question because they might not like the answer. Ostrich in the sand syndrome.