BGA Sues Charter School Network For Refusing To Release Records

Better Government Association seeks Internet activity records for Intrinsic Schools administrators, but taxpayer-funded charter network refuses to comply with state’s open records law. So BGA heads to court.

Matthew Topic (773) 368-8812
Robert Herguth (312) 821-9030

CHICAGO—The Intrinsic Schools home page asserts, "We teach until students learn."

But leadership of the Chicago-based taxpayer-funded charter school network needs to learn how to follow state law – in particular the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, which guarantees public access to public records upon request.

A lawsuit filed by the Better Government Association on March 26, 2015, in Cook County Circuit Court contends that Intrinsic violated FOIA by refusing to turn over records that would show what web sites high-ranking staff members are accessing.

This request for documents "sufficient to show Internet browser activity . . . for the ten highest paid employees" is fairly standard, similarly requested from a number of public agencies in recent years, including other charter school networks.

All have complied – except Intrinsic.

The aim is to gauge workplace efficiency – are employees visiting appropriate web sites, and are employees spending inordinate amounts of time conducting personal business on the taxpayer dime?

As the lawsuit points out, "BGA routinely obtains browser history records from public bodies and has uncovered in at least one investigation widespread viewing of non-work-related websites by government employees while on the clock at taxpayer expense."

Charter schools are fair game for this kind of inquiry. After all, they are performing a crucial function with taxpayer dollars: Educating schoolchildren – and an increasing number.

"If charter school systems want the public funding, they have to submit to the rules – in this case FOIA," said BGA President and CEO Andy Shaw. "Agencies can’t just pick and choose which laws to follow."

The BGA’s lawsuit claims that Intrinsic "has willfully and intentionally violated FOIA by failing to produce the records requested by BGA."

Click here to see a copy of the lawsuit and the BGA’s other legal actions.

The Better Government Association is a Chicago-based nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group that works for integrity, transparency and accountability in government by exposing corruption and inefficiency; identifying and advocating effective public policy; and engaging and mobilizing the public to achieve authentic and responsible reform.