EDITORIAL: A $10,000 question

No one has a bigger stake in the performance of public education systems than parents. School accountability starts with the families who have their children enrolled and engaged in the classrooms overseen by the state. That’s why parents are guaranteed access to their children’s education records under federal law.

But the Nevada Department of Education has different ideas about federal and state transparency requirements. John Eppolito, a father of four, asked to review the state’s records on his children and was told he would have to pay nearly $10,200 to see them.

His outrageous story was reported last month by Karen Gray of the Nevada Journal, the journalism arm of the Nevada Policy Research Institute. The state’s multimillion-dollar computer system has the ability to store more than 800 data points on every Nevada student and report those data to other states and to Washington, but it apparently isn’t capable of spitting out a report on an individual student. That would require new programming, hence the state asking for a cool 10 grand.

“They can give information on my children to third parties, but I can’t see it?” Mr. Eppolito told Ms. Gray.

Ironically, the computer database is called SAIN, the System of Accountability Information in Nevada. It might be accountable to Washington, but it sure isn’t accountable to parents.

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, parents must be allowed to inspect and review a child’s education records within 45 days of submitting a request. Why the state would think it’s exempt from that law when the department stores school district and school-specific data defies explanation.

But the idea that any parent would be required to cough up an amount that exceeds the total cost of educating a child for an entire year just to see stored data? That’s insane.

The Nevada Department of Education needs to fix its database immediately so any parent can see a child’s information almost immediately — and free of charge.