Boston think tank calls out Wellesley Public Schools for pricey data

As journalists and researchers are finding out, Wellesley isn’t just an expensive place to live or shop: Even our data can come at a steep price.

The Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based non-partisan think tank known for its focus on education issues, has called out Wellesley Public Schools in a blog post titled “Inefficiency at Wellesley Schools stifles transparency.”

The gist of the post is that Wellesley charges a lot for basic data that should be readily available under the state’s public records laws, and the suggestion is that if the school system were more organized it could deliver such data more easily and cheaply. More specifically, Pioneer Institute was working with the MuckRock Freedom of Information website to collect assorted enrollment data regarding Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) across the state.

State public records law states that officials can charge for the time it takes to compile and redact sensitive information from requested documents. But we had no idea Wellesley Public Schools would want $3,525.38 just to tell us how many initially rejected students were eventually allowed into an IEP.

After further explaining the details of the searches it requested, Pioneer concludes:

In an age when filing cabinets are passé, there should be more access to information than ever before. Instead, Wellesley is passing the buck on its own inefficiency.

Pioneer’s not the only one of late to fuss about the cost of getting data from the Wellesley Public School system. The Wellesley Townsman fought the good fight over the costs associated with accessing emails between former School Superintendent Bella Wong and former business manager Ruth Quinn Berdell in the wake of controversy over school financial operations. However, the Towsnman recently reported that the State Supervisor of Public Records sided with the school system, which was able to justify the $573 it wanted to charge for retrieving the emails. That estimate came after an earlier request by the Townsman for emails was revised, after the school system wanted to charge $13, 166.

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