recent post on Philadelphia's Parents United for Public Education
raises an issue that pulls together FOI and confidential
information issues. Entitled "Is 'right to know' the new 'pay
to play'?", the post is about Parents United's attempt to make
public a report that contains a list of Philadelphia schools recommended for closure and
the criteria used for developing the list. The failure of this attempt would mean special access to confidential information for those who partially funded the preparation of the report.
The criteria and list were put together by a contractor, the Boston
Consulting Group (BCG), and the project was partially paid for by the William
Penn Foundation. In turn, for this project, the foundation solicited
donations from, among others, real estate developers and those
promoting charter expansion, that is, from individuals and entities
that stood to benefit from information about school closings as well
as from the closings of particular schools.
Parents United sought to get a copy of BCG's report, but were told by the school board that the
report was protected from disclosure as an "internal predecisional
document." Parents United won the case before the Pennsylvania
Office of Public Records, on the grounds that the document had been
disclosed to the William Penn Foundation and the foundation was not "internal." The school board has filed suit in court
to overturn the Office of Public Records decision.