Entries by Tom Nash

Basic information about IEP access lacking in Massachusetts public schools

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), geared at students whose educational needs fall outside the norm, are crucial to the academic success of tens of thousands of Massachusetts children. But because IEPs can be costly for public school systems, students on the cusp of need can easily fall through the cracks. If parents suspect their child needs an IEP to perform to his or her potential and the school has not raised the issue, the parents can request that the school district perform an evaluation.  If the district finds the child to be within norms, no IEP is proposed.  Parents can then get an independent evaluation at a cost of about $2,000 or can challenge the school to pay for it, but […]

‘Calling out’ the Secretary of State

Secretary of State Bill Galvin didn’t waste time when it came to holding for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts accountable for his assertion on the ethnic voting gap in Massachusetts. “I’m calling him out,” Galvin said of Roberts’ assertion, noting the actual numbers show the opposite.  But when it comes to holding his own management team accountable, we would have hoped the Secretary would exert the same vigilance.Our hope was dashed. At MuckRock, a public records request service, we’ve filed thousands of records requests to hundreds of agencies on behalf of our users — a mix of journalists, researchers, and everyday citizens – with the assurance that we had a place to turn if government agencies stymied us. […]

MassDOT won’t say who’s getting a free ride

Our Commonwealth’s toll system doesn’t appear discriminating at first glance. If you drive on the turnpike, you’re paying to be there. Unless you’re among the public employees who have access to a transponder that lets you ride for free. There are many reasons why public employees would need unlimited access to perform their duties. But Pioneer Institute wants to let the public know which officials are being offered a free ride who don’t maintain the roads or keep them safe. As part of Pioneer’s partnership with Freedom of Information service MuckRock, we asked for any index or log or other file that tracks the non-revenue highway toll collection transponders. In a letter rejecting the request, MassDOT said such information fell […]

Inefficiency at Wellesley Schools stifles transparency

Sometimes the smaller the bureaucracy gets, the more inefficient or unwilling it is to provide basic data that would help show how well it’s fulfilling its responsibilities. The Wellesley Public School System is one example that Freedom of Information website MuckRock has encountered in its ongoing work to make public entities comply with the commonwealth’s public records laws. MuckRock, in partnership with the Pioneer Institute, filed several requests for Individualized Education Plan (IEP) data across Massachusetts. We were looking for basic enrollment information, including: – The number of students evaluated by the district to determine if they qualified for an IEP – The number of students who qualified for an IEP based on that evaluation – The number of students […]

Boston Herald: State Undercuts Open Records Law

Friday, September 14, 2012 Circulation:108,548 By Tom Nash Tom Nash is news editor at MuckRock, a Boston-based, online public records request service that is partnering with Pioneer Institute on its government transparency initiative. What happens when the watchdog is part of the problem? Massachusetts law supposedly ensures that state agencies fulfill public records requests within 10 days. MuckRock, an online service that tracks such records, has fully documented that state agencies are at best sluggish in responding and in many cases simply ignore the law. You know you have a problem when state agencies average almost two months to fulfill such requests – when they respond at all. We need a watchdog to make sure the law is followed and […]