Our goal at OpenTheBooks.com is to empower citizens through spending transparency so they can start asking tough, fact-based questions.
With that goal in mind, on May 1st we will release 1.1 million lines of new data detailing $52 billion in school district vendor spending from 2006-11. You can see it at www.openthebooks.com.
Here’s what we found last week:
Since 2006, a handful of school districts used a limited number of taxi cab services to spend $48 million in taxi cab rides. The top 5 districts spent $20 million of that $48 million. The top spending district spent $7400 per day on taxi cabs last year.
Our story sparked national interest.
While this is merely a quick glance across the checkbook, the early indication is that the cabs are used to transport special needs kids to schools and service providers by taxi service.
Is $48 million spent on taxi rides the best way to allocate scarce resources for educations spending? With such large contracts, was there a competitive bidding process or any attempt to find creative, less expensive, less expensive solution? How would we know without looking into every alternative, including funding parents directly to meet individual transportation needs.
Here’s how it broke down by district (2006-11):
- 822 school districts spent zero on taxi cab service
- 42 districts spent over $28 million
- 5 districts spent over $20 million
Click here to see a district by district annual breakdown of vendors and costs.
95% of IL school districts complied with the state mandate to educate special needs children without taxi cab transportation. It was only 5% of districts – all in property tax rich northern Illinois – that racked up $48 million in taxi charges.
Let’s get answers. We call on the districts spending millions to open the books. Post all taxi cab contracts, original requests for service, bids and all documents relating to the accounting and fulfillment of contracts.