Thursday, July 30, 2009

Open records, citizenship, and a tiny KDE change

Since 1992, the Department of Education has had its own regulation on how to request Open Records, with the current edition here. In June, though, the state board of education voted to repeal that regulation, and instead follow a standard regulation for all state agencies, available here.

This is not a big change. Mainly, it will mean that once the change becomes final, we should all submit our requests to the Commissioner's office, rather than to "the Records Officer, Associate Commissioner, Office of Management Information Services."

If you want to inspect Department of Education, you submit a written request and you're entitled to see almost anything. The only exceptions come from a statutory list of documents that can be kept private.

If you want copies, you should expect a small fee: 10¢ a page for paper copies, and a custom fee for things like photographs and digital records that will only include copying costs and not include staff time.

As an added tip, it's always worth checking the KDE website first. If you can figure out who's got the thing you want that's not available on-line, it's also worth asking that person to send it by e-mail at no cost at all. You only need an Open Records request when both of those less formal methods fail--but it's still a helpful back-up.

The same rules--except for who you ask--apply to all Kentucky districts and schools.

About the picture: My mother taught me early that government documents are public documents, and asking to see them is as American as apple pie and Fourth of July parades. That small illustration has long been my personal reminder that asking for the documents we want is a serious bit of citizenship in action.

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