Today's article on page B1 of the Metro Section titled, "Montgomery Schools aim to boost tech tools" is a well written piece. The problem is, it isn't well researched and reads exactly the same as a press release. If the goal of The Washington Post is to re-print press releases, then bravo. However, the public has been led to believe that The Washington Post is a newspaper concerned with accuracy, fairness, ethics and the news gathering process.
On page B3, the article contains the following paragraph:
The district plans to pay for the next wave of whiteboards and wireless mainly through its capital improvement budget, which can't be used for personnel, and a rebate program the Federal Communications Commission created more than 15 years ago aimed at boosting technology in schools.On September 11, 2012, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted to spend $14.5 million by taking out two long term leases. They did not specify how the multi-year lease payments will be made. The paragraph states the payments will "mainly" come out of the capital improvements budget and "can't be used for personnel." In fact, the Montgomery County Public Schools capital budget is used for some personnel. A list of the positions paid out of the capital budget is a publicly available budget document.
The paragraph goes on to mention a "rebate program" from the Federal Communications Commission. That rebate program is for schools and libraries to receive rebates when they purchase telecommunications services or internet access services. That rebate program does not include the purchase of interactive white boards in classrooms. But, by misstating the purpose of the FCC program, Montgomery County Public Schools staff have sought to restrict the use of the rebate funds. The Washington Post repeats the misinformation.
In fact, the rebate funds received from the FCC through this program belong to the Montgomery County Council and can be used to pay for police, fire, health care, library or teachers. The rebates are in no way restricted to use in public schools, and are the property of the funding authority, the Montgomery County Council.
Reporting on education issues is greatly appreciated, however, when $14.5 million is at issue the facts behind the source of the funds, and the appropriation authority are of utmost importance to the public. The sole source, no bid, no contract purchase of over 3,300 Promethean brand interactive white boards by Montgomery County Public Schools administrators in 2008 has an extensive history. When the same administrators are considering the purchase of an additional 2,000 Promethean brand interactive white boards, once again without bids or contracts, factual reporting on this procurement is extremely important to the public.
Thank you for ensuring that the public can trust the news gathering process of The Washington Post to be accurate, fair, and ethical.
Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland