Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Should teachers' addresses be public information?

A couple of years back, I did a piece for City Paper profiling some rank-and file city employees. I remember several of the people I spoke to being surprised -- and a little horrified -- that I could learn their salaries and publish them if I so chose. One asked not to be included in the piece because she didn't want certain family members to learn her salary (I obliged). Which is just to say, they didn't see it as obvious that a lot of information about them should be public simply by virtue of their being public employees.

Should teachers' addresses be public information?

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A couple of years back, I did a piece for City Paper profiling some rank-and file city employees. I remember several of the people I spoke to being surprised -- and a little horrified -- that I could learn their salaries and publish them if I so chose. One asked not to be included in the piece because she didn't want certain family members to learn her salary (I obliged). Which is just to say, they didn't see it as obvious that a lot of information about them should be public simply by virtue of their being public employees.

Today I noticed this piece from the AP about a dispute in state court over whether public school teachers' addresses should be open record. The state's biggest teachers' union says no; the Office of Open Records says yes. The latest development in the case is a technical one -- the court ruled that the union will have to sue individual school districts from disclosing the information, rather than the OOR -- but the central question here is interesting. How much information about public employees is the public entitled to? Certainly one can see why teachers' salaries and professional qualifications should be disclosed. But what's the case for making their addresses public? We're having a hard time seeing it, but we'll put in a call to Terry Mutchler, of the Office of Open Records, and see what she says. In the meantime: Thoughts?

Update: Waiting on a call back from the Office of Open Records, but I should probably disclose that I am married to, and share an address with, a Pennsylvania teacher.

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Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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