Having raised taxes, could you give us a little access?

The Wichita public school district has raised taxes substantially, but it’s still difficult to view the board meetings. Could we work out a deal?

In August the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, raised property taxes. The mill levy will rise by 2.86, an increase of about five percent from its present level. The projected cost is an additional $33 per year for a home worth $100.000.

That’s bad. What’s also bad is the district’s lack of respect for taxpayers. It’s difficult to view a meeting of the school board, which is a sign that the district prefers to operate in the shadows as much as possible.

If you — a taxpayer to USD 259, and whose taxes you must pay to the school district have just been raised by five percent — would like to watch a meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, your options are few. You can attend the meetings in person. Or, if you subscribe to certain cable television systems, you can view delayed repeats of the meetings. But that’s it.

Live and archived video of governmental meetings is commonplace, except for the Wichita public schools. Citizens must either attend the meetings, or view delayed broadcasts on cable TV.

There’s a simple way to fix this. It’s called YouTube.

When the Sedgwick County Commission was faced with an aging web infrastructure for its archived broadcasts, it did the sensible thing. It created a YouTube channel and uploaded video of its meetings. Now citizens can view commission meetings at any time on desktop PCs, tablets, and smartphones. This was an improvement over the old system, which was difficult to use and required special browser plug-ins. I could never get the video to play on my Iphone.

Sometimes citizens have taken it upon themselves to post Wichita school board video on YouTube so that citizens and taxpayers may view meetings. Click for an example.
Sometimes citizens have taken it upon themselves to post Wichita school board video on YouTube so that citizens and taxpayers may view meetings. Click for an example.
The Wichita school district could do the same. In fact, the district already has a YouTube channel. Yes, it takes a long time to upload two or three hours of video to YouTube, but once started the process runs in the background without intervention. No one has to sit and watch the process.

Earlier this year I asked why the district does not make video of its meetings available archived online. The district responded that it “has a long-standing commitment to the USD 259 community of showing unabridged recordings of regular Board of Education meetings on Cox Cable Channel 20 and more recently AT&T U-verse Channel 99.” The meetings are broadcast seven times starting the day after each meeting. Two of the broadcasts start at 1:00 am.

Showing meetings delayed on cable TV is okay. It was innovative at one time. But why aren’t meetings shown live? What if you can’t watch the meeting before it disappears from the broadcast schedule after a week? What if you don’t have Cox or AT*T U-verse? What if you want to watch meetings on your computer, tablet, or smartphone? I don’t think the fact that meetings are on cable TV means they can’t also be on YouTube.

Throw the taxpayers a bone, please.

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