P  E  Y  T  O  N    W  O  L  C  O  T  T
Valley Mirror
morning  news
eye on
Wolcott: Keep
an eye on
Philip Navarrette
Cleburne Times-Review
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Constant vigilance
and curiosity into
every decision are
to properly
monitor and control
a school board for
the benefit of the
taxpayers, special
speaker Peyton
Wolcott said
Thursday night at a
organized by the
Concerned Citizens
of Cleburne.
below--See "Keep
an eye on
GCOE:  Brown Act? We don’t need
no stinking Brown Act!
By Tim Crews, Publisher
Sacramento Valley Mirror Sept. 24, 2006
Willows — As national education reformers
began to notice the hubbub here, an attorney
was hired Wednesday night by the Glenn
County Board of Education to represent it in
a lawsuit filed by this newspaper — but
terms of the engagement, a public contract,
remain secret.  The matter was not on the
agenda, as required by the state’s open
meetings law.  Nationally known education
and records bulldog Peyton Wolcott posted
(Continued below--See "GCOE")
Some say
didn’t go far
Dan Genz/Waco
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Some say justice
was served, others
say one conviction
wasn’t enough after
the end of a three-
year investigation
into a credit card
scheme involving
more than $250,000
that shocked the
Robertson County
(Continued below--See
"Some say Bremond")
Photo by my
By Scott Parks
Dallas Morning News
04:55 AM CDT,  May 8, 2006

Peyton Wolcott is either a lone
voice crying in the wilderness or the
vanguard of a revolution sweeping
through school districts across

(Continued below--See "Web
Lynn Woolley Radio Show
Sept. 21, 2006 (9-10 p.m.)
It was fun and my great honor to
be interviewed by
Lynn Woolley
on his radio show which airs in
California, Texas and Minnesota.
San Antonio
Radio host
Lynn Woolley
'A' for Accountability
Bloggers In The
Education News --
This Week in Education
Alexander Russo
May 10, 2006

With three examples in
just the last week, it
seems like mainstream
education editors and
reporters may finally be
getting more comfortable
crediting, covering, and
citing websites and
bloggers for their
contributions -- two or
three years after their
colleagues on the politics
and media beats.

The examples below
illustrate that, for reporters
and editors, maybe it's
time to think about
crediting and including
blogs in your reporting
rather than ignoring them
(or, even worse, mooching
off them for tips & story
ideas you know who you
are). Blogs sometimes
break news, push ideas
forward, and provide
commentary as good as
any other expert or pundit
you would otherwise call.
Go on, try it.

For bloggers, it may be
worth noting that all three
of these examples come
when the blogsites
information or breaking
news. Brilliant
commentary probably ain't
going to get you there
unless you're also an
academic or part of an
organization or advocacy
group. The only
exceptions I can think of
include Jay Mathews and
Greg Toppo, who have
included me or my site
once in a while. Are there

Now on to the examples:

....The second instance is
about the edusphere's
own version of the
Smoking Gun, Peyton
Wolcott, who was just
written up in the Dallas
Morning News (Web
watchdog keeps eye on
school spenders). "Peyton
Wolcott is either a lone
voice crying in the
wilderness or the
vanguard of a revolution
sweeping through school
districts across America."
(via Jimmy K)

Ed Researcher said...
Do bloggers really want
the corporate media to
start treating us like
colleagues? Seems like a
mixed blessing.
I'd be content just knowing
that they feel some
pressure from bloggers to
not f--- up because the
world is watching.

5:54 PM   
Alexander Russo said...
colleagues? i didn't mean
to suggest that. what i did
say is that so far the
media has ignored
education blogs, at least
publicly, either because
the blogs weren't good
enough or because of the
taboo in some
newsrooms against
dealing with them. and
how do you know that the
media feels "some
pressure from bloggers
not to f-- up" if they don't
ever cite or quote from the
education blogs?
6:25 PM  

posted by Alexander Russo at
5/10/2006 10:08:00 AM

This Week in
(Continued at right--See
"Smoking Gun")
By Lisa Sandberg
May 08, 2006

The public
culture war
Few things inflame the
culture wars as much
as who controls the
public school
curriculum. The fight is
rearing its head again
in Texas, as social
conservatives draw
their guns on a school
curriculum provision,
obscure until now,
tucked into House Bill
Lynn Woolley
May 9, 2006

Wolcott is
becoming well
known as an
education watchdog--now
having been written up in
the DMN. She is busy
exposing school boards as
rubber stamps for school
superintendents who are
nothing more than head
An Interview with
Peyton Wolcott :
Shining the Light
on Education
Thursday, March 9, 2006
Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico
Portales , New Mexico
Thursday, March 9, 2006

1) You have recently
launched a
"conservative school
reform website." What
led up to this?

Volunteering at my
daughter's high school
led to wanting to do
what I could to help
improve public
education.  I'm writing
two books; in the
offers practical
information--how to
organize as parents to
get a decent dress code
and drug testing, how to
get candidates elected
to a school board, how
to file public records
requests, and so on.  
The website also
seems to be becoming
a rallying point--we just
launched February 23
and already the
response is amazing.
What great people there
are involved in this
cause, people with a lot
of heart and soul.

2) What are the main
concerns that you would
like to address?

Our kids deserve a far
better education than
our public schools are
delivering, and our
parents and taxpayers
deserve a better
financial break. And all
of us are entitled to
school districts and
state and regional
edu-agencies appear to
want the best of both
worlds, to operate with
the secrecy of a private
corporation but funded
by our taxes.

3) Why the focus on
paper records?

It's interesting to
remember that the feds
got Al Capone on
income tax evasion.
What an
unexpected honor!
'A for
Award -
to those who are
willing to
misleading, or
false actions and
claims of the
al complex in
order to bring
reform in favor
of children of
all races,
ability and
economic status.
They ask
questions that
need to be asked,
such as "where is
the money?" and
"Why does it have
to be this way?"
and they never
give up. These
people have
adversity and
have held those
who seem not to
believe in
honesty, integrity
and compassion
accountable for
their actions. The
winners of our
"A" work to
wrong-doing not
for themselves,
but for others -
total strangers -
for the "Greater
Good"of the
community and, by
their actions,
courage and
self-less passion.
Tracking edu-corruption,
Ryan Boots/Edspresso
June 27, 2006
Once again, Peyton Wolcott
does edureporters' jobs for
them . . . .  
Florence Shapiro
Conservatives say
several lawmakers,
including a Republican
(Sen. Florence
Shapiro), are trying to
usurp the power of the
State Board of
Education, an elected
body controlled by
conservatives, and
hand it to appointed
(and liberal) educators.

How would they do so?

By creating teams of
college professors
and public school
teachers to evaluate
and recommend
curriculum standards.

Conservative activist
Peyton Wolcott calls it
"a power grab" by
bureaucrats "to seize
what little power the
elected State Board of
Education still has."

State School Board
member David Bradley
said the offending
language in question
would thwart
(conservatives) have
worked for. "Only
liberal educrats would
be allowed to set the
(curriculum) directing
textbook criteria and
selection, with no voter
input, testimony or

Shapiro's office says
Article 5 of the tax bill
would leave the state
board with all the
power it had before
(and that includes
having the final word
on the curriculum for
Texas public schools).
But the provision
would establish
committees made up
of professors and
public school teachers
who would weigh in on
curriculum standards.

Shapiro says the
amendment is
designed to raise
standards, not take
power away from an
elected body.
Someone from her
office even cited
language in the bill
that reads:
"Notwithstanding any
other provision of this
section, the State
Board of Education
retains the board's
authority of the
required curriculum. . ."

That doesn't satisfy
Cathie Adams,
president of the Texas
Eagle Forum who
said: "This makes our
State Board of
Education almost
without a job to do.
What value is there in
meeting . . . to sing

And so for another day,
social conservatives
took to the blogs. "The
Legislators cannot
have it both ways," one
woman wrote. "Either
the elected Texas
State Board of
Education has the
authority over the P-12
curriculum, or the
unelected (appointed)
Texas Commissioner
of Education has the
authority over the P-12
curriculum. Riding the
fence on this issue will
only result in total
confusion down the

Liberal advocates said
the amendment was
good news for
elevating academic
standards. "Getting
real academic experts
to provide advice and
seems a lot more
worthwhile than getting
politicians on the state
board trying to make
their personal beliefs
what students are
supposed to learn,"
said Dan Quinn,
spokesman for the
Texas Freedom
Network, a group
which monitors the
religious far right.
Al Capone

Peyton Wolcott,
frustrated and
angry at the
corruption and
fraud in our
nation's public
school education
system, starts a
website to expose
the perpetrators:
How we take
back our
education: one
person, one
question, one
school at a time.
4) Are there going to be regular
columns or regular writers or will this
just feature recent news?

Right now we're publishing email
newsletters to alert folks to breaking
news posted on the website, including
larger-picture stories such as Sunday's
connecting the dots between Colorado
geography teacher Jay Bennish and
Monte Moses (AASA National
Superintendent of the Year for 2005)
and Monte's older brother Mike, former
education commissioner here in Texas
who was also America's
highest-priced supe while at Dallas ISD.
 Jimmy Kilpatrick's doing such a great
job publishing daily newspaper articles
and commentaries every morning it's
hard to imagine the need for another
similar source.

5) Will you be discussing "NO Child Left

Have touched on NCLB along with
NAEP on the website; will have more
including the exclusions issue in my
book, "David v. Goliath: How America's
Moms & Dads are taking on Education,

6) I am not sure if anyone notices, but I
believe the number of parents who
home school their children has
increased. Any thoughts on this trend?

Bravo and hats off to parents who
choose to home school; as Michael
Smith, president of the Home School
Legal Defense Association, said last
December, "With private and
government estimates showing that
home-schooling is growing at a rate of
7-15% each year, most people
recognize home-schooling as the
fastest-growing education trend
today."  Here's hoping public schools
are paying attention; these numbers
coupled with parents' eagerness to
send their children to charter schools
indicate at the very least a certain
amount of customer dissatisfaction
with traditional public schools.  We've
forgotten that home schooling was
once widely accepted; to name just a
few examples, eleven presidents,
Patrick Henry, Thomas Edison, Mary
Baker Eddy, General George S. Patton
and Andrew Carnegie all learned at

7) Some of your recent articles on your
web site refer to skullduggery, graft,
and corruption in the American
Educational system. Other than your
web site, who is monitoring the goings
on in the American schools?

While almost none of the official
agencies we've assumed were
monitoring public education are doing
so, more people than can be named
here are involved at the individual level;
imagine if you will a great big puzzle
with everybody tackling the piece
closest at hand.  We're seeing parents
and grandparents, taxpayers filing
public records requests and circulating
their findings in various ways, often via
the Internet in the form of community
updates and round-robin emails; there
are listserves, websites on block
scheduling and a myriad of other
subjects, a cable access network, a
series of videos.  So much creativity,
so many ways of getting the word out!
There's the anonymous Home Depot
clerk in New York who picked up the
phone and helped expose the $11.2
million Roslyn schools scandal with a
single call, the Miami teacher who
exposed an enormous phony
credentials scheme involving more than
a thousand teachers, the
Massachusetts dad who was willing to
spend the night in jail to protect his
parental rights regarding how his local
schools educated his kindergartener.  
There are just so many folks involved in
this effort--lots of signs of good-doing,
to quote from "Clueless."  Donna
Garner is a one-woman cottage
industry.  Look at this marvelous series
of interviews you're doing--another
way of shining the light on education!

Austin American-
May 2, 2005 HB 2264
Hearing - Texas Lege, Austin
(PHOTO--Peyton Wolcott)
Women after Todd
Baxter’s hide
By Rich Oppel
Austin American-
Statesman| Thursday, May
5, 2005, 01:26 PM

Susan Bushart of West
Lake Hills and Peyton
Wolcott of Horseshore [sic]
Bay, women using public
records requests to get
school district information.
You’ll recall I wrote about
Todd Baxter’s HB 2264 and
putting up records on the
Internet Wednesday. (The
two women referred to in
the blog were Bushart and
Dianna Pharr, but Wolcott is
involved in opposition to the
Baxter bill too.)

Bushart and Wolcott write: “
While we appreciate your
drawing attention to HB
2264, today’s article is
misleading in that
opposition to HB 2264 is
not limited to two moms
from Eanes ISD. Moms and
dads throughout our entire
great state are objecting to
the fact that this bill
threatens to limit open
records requests — the one
tool parents and taxpayers
have in uncovering fraud
and misdeeds in our local
school districts.

“Passage of this bill would
mean that we can only get
50 pages per month at 10
cents per page. Anything
after that the districts can
charge the moon and the
stars for. We’re already
being charged stiff prices to
view public records of how
our taxpayer dollars are
being spent; right now, we
are in receipt of a statement
for $1,027.50 (exhibited at
Monday night’s hearing by
Peyton) to view spending
records for a board
president and vice
president in another district.
One can only imagine the
charge had HB 2264
already been passed.

“ When Eanes ISD board
president Clint Sayers
testified Monday night on
behalf of HB 2264, he
mentioned that in his job as
a Realtor he expected to pay
open records costs. We are
not businessmen expecting
to profit from a business
transaction. We are parents
looking at how the money
we’ve already contributed is
being spent in our kids’

“For school districts to claim
they are being harassed by
parents is like Goliath
claiming he’s being
harassed by David. The
school districts hold all the
cards; they have the records
— and know where and
how to hide them, as
Representative Martha
Wong mentioned at Monday
night’s hearing. The
districts can hire large
education law firms for legal
advice, which advice the
taxpayers wind up paying
for. The districts can also go
to TASB or TASA, whose
dues and expenses the
taxpayers also pay for. The
bottom line is that districts
are only incurring costs for
public record production
because they’re
stonewalling and looking for
ways to avoid producing the
public records all taxpayers
have a right to, or because
the districts have sloppy
record keeping. There are
no other reasons for
districts to run up huge
legal and other bills.

“Make no mistake, HB 2264
is bad legislation which will
drastically impact the ability
of moms and dads across
Texas to access the
spending and other public
records to which they are
entitled without excessive
fees or other hindrances.
Public records requests are
the only tools we have to
find instances of
noncompliance and fraud in
our schools, and Education
Inc. isn’t happy with us or
with what we’ve found.”
Alexander Russo

I hope it's the latter, but
I fear it's the former.

Ms. Wolcott, 59, is an
empty-nester who
dedicates long days to
busting up Education
Inc. – her metaphor for
school district officials,
consultants and
companies whose top
priority is getting their
hands on public money
rather than educating

Education Inc. could be
operating in each of
Dallas County's 15
public school districts.
But probably no one
would know, according
to Ms. Wolcott.

There was a time when
depended on their
elected school boards
to be watchdogs over
school policies and
spending. But the
bureaucrats of
Education Inc. have
defanged them,
according to Ms.

Today, in Texas, board
members no longer
see themselves as
independent elected
officials who oversee
the superintendent.
Instead, they believe
they have no power as
individuals but must
function only on "a
team," which usually
features the
superintendent as
head coach.

Board members who
publicly raise tough
questions about
school district policies
and practices risk
being branded as
mavericks or

This means that a
grass-roots movement
of watchdog
organizations is
needed to fill the void
and push parental
involvement way
beyond bake sales and
the PTA, according to
Ms. Wolcott.

"The truth is that a lot of
parents are afraid to
become activists and
challenge their
school's decision-
makers because they
fear that school
officials will take it out
on their kids," she said.

A hundred years ago,
Ms. Wolcott would have
been ink stained and
sweating over a
printing press,
cranking out
broadsheets that ask
impertinent questions
of powerful people.

Today, however, she
swings a more modern
publishing hammer – a
Web site called www.
peyton wolcott.com.

"The point is to clean
up the messes that
school districts get
into," she said.

Ms. Wolcott, wife of a
retired Marine, lives in
Horseshoe Bay, a
Texas Hill Country
community northwest
of Austin. Her two
daughters are grown
and out of the house,
which has made space
for a home office.

Her Web site examines
expense accounts. She
writes about those who
publicly poor mouth
about their district's
lack of money and then
leave town for junkets
at expensive hotels on
the taxpayers' dime.

She looks at districts
across Texas and the

One headline next to a
photo of Mick Jagger
"Superintendents: The
Rock Stars of K-12
public education."

"The superintendents
loved that one," she
said. "But I was trying
to say that we want
public servants who
are modest and thrifty
and who don't stay in
four-star hotels just
because they can. I
don't know about you,
but I sure don't
consider it my divine
right to stay in four-star

Ms. Wolcott's
fascination with back-
room shenanigans
began innocently
enough when she
started volunteering at
her daughter's high
school several years

She wondered why the
choir kids had to raise
money for their gowns
while the school paid
for costumes and
uniforms for other
extracurricular activities.

She asked herself
what makes a
superintendent attend
an out-of-town
conference and come
back touting an
expensive contract for a
new program that no
one else thought

She questioned why
the school's dress
code was enforced so

"When you are just a
mom and bringing
cookies and
sandwiches to school,
they discount what you
say," Ms. Wolcott said.

So, she became a
political activist and
found like-minded
people who also
questioned the way
things were run at
school headquarters.

She helped form a
community group that
fielded a slate of five
candidates for school
board. They
campaigned on a
pledge not to develop
personal business ties
to the school district
they were supposed to
be governing in the
public interest.

It seemed that
incumbent school
board members were
selling insurance,
furniture, appliances
and plumbing services
to the school district.

Ms. Wolcott's slate won
all five seats.

"People did not want to
see trustees writing
themselves checks
anymore," she said. "It
was one of those
perfect storms that
come together behind
a powerful idea."

Last February, she
unveiled her Web site.
It includes her
reporting of original
stories as well as links
to other publications.
One set of postings
explores whether
principals and
should be required to
live in the district where
they work.

The Web site gives
advice about how
people can organize to
change the things they
don't like about their
school district.
Readers learn about
filing open records
requests to get more
information from
secretive school

My thought is this:
Wouldn't it be nice to
see more Peyton
Wolcotts pop up
across the American

"Most parents are too
busy," she said. "Our
working moms have
horrendous days. But
some of us are in a
position to do this
work. Other than being
a wife and mother, it's
the most rewarding
thing I've ever done."

com or call 469-330-
Some say

town of Bremond.
Former school district
Johnson received a
five-year prison
sentence in June for
a felony charge of
theft of more than
$100,000 and was
ordered to repay
$207,000 to the
As more
governments across
Texas face
revelations that
employees have
illegally used credit
cards for their own
purposes, the
Bremond case
shows that the
people who do the
spending can face
punishment, while
others who may have
benefited from the
illegal spending are
difficult to prosecute.

One of the initial
Bremond whistle-
blowers isn’t
satisfied with just one

“I feel much more
was left to be
discovered and more
people should have
been prosecuted,”
said Pat Yezak, a
Bremond parent who
helped uncover the
theft with a series of
public records
requests in the
summer of 2003.

Furious about tax
rates and
investigating rumors
of financial abuse,
Yezak, her husband,
Maurice, and friends
Nancy and Robert
Gadbois asked to
see the district’s
credit card bills and
other financial
documents that
eventually led to
resignation and the
criminal investigation.
A district audit later
showed spending on
fuel, liquor, travel and
jewelry, and other
irregularities for
nearly five years, from
1998 to 2003.

“Johnson wasn’t
alone when he went
to the World Series,
Las Vegas, the
Horseshoe (in
Bossier City, La.),
dog races, Cancun,
the fishing trip in
California . . . Those
people know who
they are, and we
know also,” Yezak

Special prosecutor
Jim James counters
that expectations
were too high. It’s too
difficult to prove that
everyone who
benefited from the
credit card purchases
knew the holders
were cheating the
school district, he

“I am extremely
satisfied with both the
investigation and the
outcome,” James
said. “It started out
with people saying
that nobody’s ever
going to get arrested
on this, then they said
there’s never going to
be a conviction, then
they said he’ll never
go to prison.”

Although he
understands that
others benefited from
the misspent tax
dollars, he said the
standard of proof is

Former business
manager Sandra
Nolan died in January
as she awaited trial
for thousands of
dollars of
purchases on a credit
card in her name,
while charges
against Johnson’s
son, Jason Johnson,
for the purchase of
diamond jewelry
worth more than
$6,000 in October
2002 were dropped
as part of the plea.

Johnson’s attorney
did not return several
calls from the
Tribune-Herald, and
Jason Johnson’s
attorney, Craig
Greaves, said the
punishment against
his client’s father was

‘Seems like justice’

“It seems like justice
to me,” Greaves said,
noting Kenneth
Johnson was forced
to pay $70,000 in
restitution on top of
$137,000 he already
paid the district. “My
client wasn’t really
involved in this deal;
his father was.”

Peyton Wolcott, an
Internet journalist
who investigates and
covers fraud cases
like this one, says
she still has
questions about the
case, adding that
hundreds of
thousands of dollars
were not fully
accounted for.

“While it’s
appropriate that . . .
Kenneth Johnson
has been brought to
a degree of justice by
being sentenced to
five years in prison, it’
s concerning that
additional monies
are still unaccounted
for,” she said.

For some, the verdict
was a welcome relief.

“People feel
vindicated a bit,” said
former school board
president George
Yezak, a cousin of Pat
Yezak’s husband. “I
think the fact that
(Johnson) was the
only one in the end
that was convicted . . .
when it came down to
it, he was the guy
who was crooked.”

Johnson will not be
eligible for parole
until he serves at
least nine months of
his sentence. When
released, he faces 10
years’ probation and
may not be able to
work in public
education again.

The Texas Education
Agency is
considering revoking
Johnson’s license,
according to court

Town residents say
that despite
concerns, they are
ready to move on.

Yezak, who was
elected to the school
board in May 2004,
said the case is a
signal that parents
should be free to
raise questions
about public

“Let’s take back our
public schools and
public offices,” she
said. “Use the open
records law.”
Keep an eye
on educators

Wolcott came to
Cleburne to speak
on the topic “How
We Take Back Our
Education — One
Person, One
Question, One
School at a Time.”
She lives in
Horseshoe Bay and
uses a Web site,
com, and other
avenues to influence
public education.
The Dallas Morning
News characterized
her as “either a lone
voice crying in the
wilderness or the
vanguard of a
revolution sweeping
through school
districts across

Throughout her
Wolcott said citizens
should use the
Open Records Act to
monitor the school
board, and gave
examples of how
she helped expose
wrongful spending
in U.S. school

“Corrupt systems
cannot stand
exposure,” she said.
“They will resist
exposure at every
opportunity. Corrupt
systems cannon
treat problems from
within. It takes
people like us from
the outside saying,
‘Hey, let’s fix this.’”

Wolcott also warned
against turning a
blind eye to
Education Inc.

“Education Inc. is the
name I give to the
messy intersection
of education and
business,” she said.
“It’s just not pretty.”

Education Inc.
causes much
corruption in the
education system,
when school
administrators get
greedy and begin
abusing their power
to make money for
themselves in the
name of the district,
Wolcott said.

Wolcott also praised
the members of the
CCC who were at
the meeting, calling
them “modern
because they are
available at a
moment’s notice to
band together and
stand up to
corruption, just as
the minutemen of
the Revolutionary
War stood up
against King George.

“You are the people
that 250 years ago
would have
answered the call,”
she said. “Y’all are
the ones who would
say, ‘When and
where do I show

Concerned Citizens
of Cleburne
President Teresa
Blackwell said she
was very impressed
with Wolcott and her

“I was very pleased
to have Peyton
Wolcott come here,”
Blackwell said. “I
wish more people
would have come.
This is standard for
our town. We have
19,014 registered
voters and less than
3,000 vote. Hopefully
we can affect some
change in that as we
work toward
solutions to our
CISD problems.”
'The Smoking
Just What
Needs--Its Own

This Week in Education
Alexander Russo

For almost a decade
now, The Smoking Gun
has dug up
documents, photos,
and transcripts about
public officials and
celebrities and posted
them online before the
rest of the press.

Now, Peyton Wolcott
has taken somewhat
the same approach
and applied it to
education -- filling her
site with scandalous
tax returns, court filings,
pictures of educators'
mansions, and the like
(Via Edspresso and

The latest posts cover
a suspicious-seeming
technology vendor in
Katy ISD Texas and
news about some
superintendents who
live outside the districts
(or states) where they
work. She names
names, gives
addresses. It's intense
-- I like it. Just what
education needs.
posted by Alexander
Russo at 4/27/2006
02:08:00 PM    

teachergrrl said...
The link isn't working!
How can I read Peyton?
8:49 PM   
Alexander Russo said...
sorry about that -- now
it's fixed
9:06 PM   
teachergrrl said...
Thank you, link is
dandy now. I approve
of the take-no-
prisoners approach!
Someday I'll work up
the energy to share my
two cents on the
ridiculous saga of
tutoring "vendors" at my
The Texas Lege--
taxpayers or in
Education, Inc.'s back
Thank You to
Bexar County
Rough Riders
A Supporter Of
The Bexar
County Rough
May 30, 2005
South Texas

Thank you for
creating the Rough
Riders meetings.
You may or may not
recall that I was the
mom who came to
the first one on
March 30 with a very
specific goal:  I was
looking for advice on
defeating some
legislation, HB 2264.

Frank Guerra's
comments were
invaluable, and the
feedback from
interacting with your
group helped refine
our talking points on
what was fairly
arcane legislation. I
took notes from
everybody I talked to
that night, and we
ran with them.

The Austin
gave us terrific
press, and they were
kind enough to send
a reporter to cover
what turned out to be
a 9:00 p.m. State
Affairs Committee
hearing on May 2 on
the same short
same-day notice we
received (public
notice rules were
waived for the
hearing). They also
mentioned our
cause multiple times
in their new editors'
blog which is quite
the read in Austin
just now, plus
published our letters
to the editor and
comments from
other parents
throughout the state.  

Remember our
"Good dog, bad dog"
flyer? We wound up
hand delivering
copies to almost all
representatives and
senators, talking
with anybody and
everybody who
appeared at all
interested over the
course of three
separate lobby days,
with the last one May

I am happy to report
that on Friday, May
13, the Austin
quoted the bill's
author that HB 2264
was "dead"; AAS
cited "a network of
Texas parents" as
the bill's opposition.  

While almost until
the very end the
odds against us
were staggering, I
think our politicians
did not want to be
perceived as being
Education, Inc. and
anti-Mom. Anti-open
government forces
have been held at
bay for another two
years, and our
crucial open records
legislation, the
heartbeat of our
great republic, is a
bit stronger than it
was a few months

Attending the Rough
Riders meeting was
well worth the
three-hour round trip.
Please thank all of
your members for
their contribution to
our success.

All things truly are

Many, many thanks
for all the good you

Peyton Wolcott
Texans for Education
P.O. Box 9068
Horseshoe Bay, TX  
Llano ISD SBDM meeting
February 2004

How we take back our children's education:
one person, one question, one school at a time.
Copyright 1999-2009 Peyton Wolcott
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Horseshoe Bay
woman's crusade
for openness gets
help from lawmaker
Bill calls for school
districts to post
spending online
By Mark Lisheron
Friday, March 23, 2007
Peyton Wolcott, a
veteran agitator who
encourages school
districts to be open and
honest with parents and
taxpayers, features
something on her
watchdog Web site she
calls the National School
District Honor Roll.

With the help of State
Rep. Bill Zedler, Wolcott's
honor roll could swell with
the names of more than
1,000 Texas school
districts that would be
required by law to post on
the Internet every check
they cut.

Zedler, R-Arlington, said
he was moved to draft
House Bill 2560 by what
he recognized as a
groundswell of Texans
who want to know how all
of their taxing authorities
are spending their
money. The bill has been
referred to the House
Public Education
Committee, where Zedler
serves as vice chairman.

Zedler's House
colleagues have filed bills
mandating that all state
agencies post their
spending online.
Spending disclosure has
the support of Gov. Rick

The state comptroller's
office, which began
posting expenditures this
year, is one of several
agencies that do so. The
Texas Education Agency,
which posts its check
register, is making plans
to provide a brief
explanation for each
payment, spokesman
Robert Scott said.

Wolcott, of Horseshoe
Bay, feels as though she
were prescient in her
quest to prod school
districts to voluntarily set
up sites outlining their

"I think something very
interesting is happening.
Basically, this is a
populist movement by
people who want to see
their school districts
succeed and are
concerned when they see
evidence of waste in
school spending," Wolcott

Wolcott said she made a
commitment to open her
home school district in
Llano after making what
she said was a broad
and clumsy request for
school records a few
years ago. The district
rewarded her a $426 bill
for copying records, which
Wolcott declined to accept
because of the cost.

After harnessing the open
records issue to a school
board race in 2004 that
resulted in the election of
five new members,
Wolcott turned to creating
a Web site that would
monitor school issues
not just in Texas, but

On Oct. 1, she posted the
National School District
Honor Roll. Making the
roll are 19 of the state's
1,032 districts and the
Texas Education Agency.
The Dallas school district,
the state's second
largest, is among the
honorees. Houston, the
largest district, has set a
goal to post its spending
on line by April, Wolcott
said. Marble Falls is the
only district in Central
Texas on her list.

Zedler's bill would ease
Wolcott's task, but she
said the current
momentum favors
districts posting their
expenditures on their own.

The Arlington school
district has announced its
intent to create a Web site
for spending regardless
of the fate of the bill filed
by their representative.

"I think this whole
movement is driven by
people's concern over the
explosive growth of
government," Zedler said.
"I think something like
this forces all of us to be
a little more careful in
how we spend the
public's money."

Friends, it's nice given
the serious nature of so
much of my photog-
raphy to be able to
publish an image like
this redbud at the
Texas Lege in Austin.   
Texas Governor Rick Perry (L)
formally swearing in new
Commissioner of Education
Robert Scott (R)
December 2, 2007
Meet The
New Press
I like this Sarah Palin
more & more
By Skip Murphy
Sept. 8, 2008
This just adds to it!  We
had Peyton Wolcott on
Meet The New Press a
while ago to talk about
check registers (e.g., check
manifests, check book,
vendor check lists -- pick a
name).  Her mission in life,
given the advent of and the
ease of use of the Internet,
is to promote greater
openness and
transparency of govern-
ment run school districts
by posting their check
registers on their websites.
(More here)
Friends, I do this work as a
full-time volunteer and turn
down vendor offers, along
with ads and donations for
the site; I have not formed a
501(c) as it seems absurd to
me for think tanks to press
for school transparency
when they themselves are
not transparent as regards
donor identities and their
salaries and expenses.  
My agenda is simple: to help
our schools educate our kids
better and for less money; it
is my hope that by their
learning to do both they can
remain strong and free and
locally governed.
Thank you for visiting; I hope
you find what you're looking
for.  If not, please
email me.    
C o m m e n t a r y   -   A b o u t  /  P r e s s
Sam Adams
Alliance Hall of
Fame inductee
(Spring 2007)  
Upton Sinclair
(December 2006)
1. John Stossel
2. Jan & Bob         
3. Peyton Wolcott
Jan. 2009 WEMJ
podcast  here
Austin American-
01.20.09 News story &
Dothan Eagle  (AL)
Google & Yahoo!
# 1
Keywords:  online check registers public
school district - Rankings for
www.peytonwolcott.com as of April 2009
Schools post their
spending online
By Andrea Billups
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Schools across the nation are
posting district checkbooks and
other financial documents online as
part of a national trans-
parency trend for communities
seeking a little taxpayer sunshine on
public spending . . . . .

In Horseshoe Bay, Texas, journalist
and education activist Peyton
is spearheading a national
effort to encourage districts to open
their financial books to the public.  In
October 2006, she jumpstarted the
nation's transparency movement by
compiling a national roster of
districts who open their check
registers. She now counts 450
districts in 31 states.

"We've achieved so much by
asking people to do this
she said. "It's been very
encouraging to see how many
people around the country are
interested in this kind of
transparency now."

In Texas, 309 districts are now
online, including such large school
systems as Dallas, Houston and
San Antonio.  
"Public school spending is out of
control. Our kids' curriculums are
not good. Before check registers
went online, all districts would show
us other than budget projection
totals were bar graphs and pie
charts of where the money was
going," she said. "But you can't have
meaningful conversation about a
bar graph and pie chart.

"As former Texas speaker Gib Lewis
used to say, ' Politics is local but
school politics is localer,' " she

FARMINGTON, Mich. | Schools across the nation are
posting district checkbooks and other financial documents
online as part of a national transparency trend for
communities seeking a little taxpayer sunshine on public
spending in the midst of the country's fiscal crisis. . . . .

In February, the Farmington Public School District paid $859.68 for
Dell printers, $14.95 for a book copy of "The Very Hungry
Caterpillar" and $182.50 for glass repair. Residents of this
12,000-student Michigan district can see online exactly where each
dollar is going, down to every last eraser, uniform and case of
bottled water.

"It connects them with their taxpayers in a trust relationship and
shows that we are spending your money wisely, and we're not
afraid to show you," says Kenneth M. Braun, who serves as
director of the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy's
"Show Michigan the Money" project.

His center has asked all of the state's 551 school districts to make
a move toward more accountability by putting their check registers
on their school Web sites. It also has been contacted by other
states who'd like to participate.

"I'm not presuming there is great malfeasance in these districts," Mr.
Braun adds of the center's efforts. "It's more of a good community
relations thing. We think everyone should do it, not just school
districts, but other levels of government. It establishes trust within a
community in a situation and time when the trust is kind of shaky."

Indeed, one Michigan district signed on after a payroll clerk
embezzled more than $1 million before being brought to justice. In
another Michigan school system that now complies with the
checkbook project, the FBI and Justice Department prosecuted two
employees for stealing, he said.

Now, the marketplace for those communities has been opened to
scrutiny, even creating a little competition that allows new vendors
to offer a more cost-effective deal. Trends of favoritism are
exposed, making the process more fair.

The move dovetails with President Obama's vows to use the
Internet to make government more open by, for example, putting
online a detailed accounting of his nearly $800 billion
economic-stimulus bill.

In Horseshoe Bay, Texas, grandmother and education activist
Peyton Wolcott is spearheading her own effort to encourage
districts there to open their financial books to the public. In October
2006, she started a personal crusade to compile a national roster
of districts who open their check registers. She now counts 450
districts in 31 states.

"We've achieved so much by asking people to do this voluntarily,"
she said. "It's been very encouraging to see how many people
around the country are interested in this kind of transparency now."

In Texas, 309 districts are now online, including such large school
systems as Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

"Our school district spending is out of control. Our kids' curriculums
are not good. Before the check registers went online, all the district
would show were bar graphs and pie charts of where the money
was going," she said. "But you can't have meaningful conversation
about a bar graph and pie chart. The numbers are so big."

"There is this saying that I love: Politics is local but school politics is
localer," she laughs, quoting one of her friends.  [NOTE:  This quote
is from former Texas speaker Gib Lewis whom I've never met.]

Not all states are buying into such an idea, however - at least the
notion of making such a posting mandatory for schools. In
Colorado, legislators killed the School Finance Transparency Act in
an education committee last month. The bill would have required all
districts to post a searchable version of the district checkbook

Opponents argued that posting checkbooks on the Internet was
time-consuming and a burden on existing staff, although the
Colorado measure offered state school systems two years to
implement the open-document law.

But Mary Reynolds, Farmington schools' executive director of
business services, said personal payroll information is simply sifted
out and the district's Web master posts the rest on their Web site.

"This is an easy thing to do, and I just think that it's the right thing,
since we are a public entity that takes in public dollars. We're online
24-7 ... and we're available to discuss it with anyone who has a

A measure similar to Colorado's was rejected by Texas lawmakers
two years ago and yet another is before Michigan legislators this

In Illinois, where about 42 districts have posted checkbooks online,
Paul Miller of the "to-do tank" Sam Adams Alliance is applauding
such efforts for open school finance records - and shaking the
trees for even greater government scrutiny.

"With transparency, you are going to have more school districts
accountable to children and the parents instead of unions and
special interests," Mr. Miller said. "It's a huge no-brainer. Parents
have a right to know how their money is being spent on their
children's education."

His organization is spearheading a Wiki-based project called
Sunshine Review, a comprehensive analysis and transparency
evaluation of all 3,140 counties in the United States.

The Alliance uses a 10-point checklist that measures budgets,
taxes, contracts and lobbying efforts, as well as provides
information about elected officials and administrators. The details
are compared around the country, with Arizona earning highest
marks for transparency while Arkansas came in last.

The site has had 1.5 million page views since it started in July 2008
and more than 18,000 pages of records have been created by
contributors Wiki-style, Mr. Miller said.

The Review will soon turn its attention on school districts after its
project with county governments is complete.
Washington Times 04.19.09 article
Public records update
Op-Ed by Peyton Wolcott
January 12, 2009

Life can be pretty amazing if
we let it.

A bunch of us -- parents
and taxpayers -- had for
several years filed public
records requests in our
school districts to learn
more about their financial
operations; with so much
industry now offshore, in
most counties in America
public schools are the
largest single budget and

After a while we began
running into a series of
brick walls. For me, it was
detainment in August 2006
by three armed school
district police officers
whose superintendent
hadn't liked my taking
pictures of misleading
signage on his front door
and main lobby wall.

The great thing about
metaphorical brick walls is
that they can have hidden
doors, the trick being to find

For me, the hidden door
was to start compiling a
national roster of school
districts posting their check
registers online as a
means of giving form,
energy and substance to
the barest beginnings of a
grassroots movement
promoting transparency.

As a practical matter, back
then I couldn't get anyone
else interested in online
public school check
registers. Although there’d
been encouraging
beginnings at the state level
with Governor Perry’s
executive order calling for
schools to spend at least
65% of their dollars in the
classroom, it’s still not the
law, plus the formula had
been diluted such that an
option for those failing to
meet the mark -- posting
their check registers online
-- was not likely to be
utilized by many; as of this
week, only six have applied
to TEA for their three
Schools FIRST points.

There was something else.
Local superintendents with
whom I’d been talking while
they privately supported my
efforts had made it clear
that that they viewed
receiving public records
requests as something
akin to being attacked with
a stick. Part of this was a
fear of the unknown, that
villagers would attack the
admin. building in the dead
of night with pitchforks and
lanterns. The online check
register movement, being
completely voluntary, gave
them an opportunity to do
the right thing. You could
say the carrot won over the

To those first 30 Texas
superintendents, and to
Commissioner Robert Scott
for putting TEA‘s checks
online, I will always be
grateful; their willingness to
venture into unknown
territory has literally
jumpstarted the nation‘s
public school transparency
movement. In our tanking
economy, with constant
news about deficits and
fraud in our schools, for
them to remain strong, free
and locally governed they’re
going to have to streamline,
and this starts a real

Texas has 302 school
districts (of 1,031)
voluntarily posting check
registers online, with a
national total of 422 in 28
states, and over $50 billion
in annual transparency.

Pretty amazing, huh?
Freedom of
Foundation Texas
H o w   w e   t a k e   b a c k   o u r   c h i l d r e n ' s    e d u c a t i o n:    o n e   p e r s o n ,   o n e   q u e s t i o n ,   o n e   s c h o o l   a t   a   t i m e .  
Public officials have
'circled the wagons' on
By Timothy M. Kelly
Editor, Beaumont Enterprise &
president, FOIFT
Winter 2008
The more that citizens and
groups pursue the
information they are entitled
to by law, the more it seems
that government officials
circle the wagons.  

Over time, even officials who
at one point had a measure
of oversight responsibility,
such as district attorneys,
assume us-vs.-them
mentality.  The "us," naturally,
ends up being the people
they see in the hallway every

Take school boards, for
instance.  Once upon a time,
they were expected to look
out for the best interests of
the people who elected them.
 Over time they were co-opted
by the superintendents and
bureaucrats they were
supposed to be holding
accountable.  So long,
scrutiny.  Goodbye,
independent thinking.  Hello,
unanimous votes.

The Internet has presented
another dimension to this.  
To be sure, it has made
government entities even
more skittish about public
information, making readily
accessible information that
was one kept private simply
because of the effort involved
in its retrieval.  "Get that
wagon moved over there.

Enter Peyton Wolcott

has taken on what she calls
"Education, Inc.," the
potentially unhealthy
intersection of public
education and private
business interests, from a
laptop computer in
Horseshoe Bay, near Austin.

With clarity of purpose and a
determination to succeed,
she has spent the past year
focused on a mission to get
all Texas school districts'
check registers posted

As one of my newspaper's
bloggers put it:  "Every check .
. . free for taxpayer viewing.  
No Freedom of Information
request, no churlish
secretaries, no unreturned
phone calls . . . just a click."  

At this point in her quest, 60
Texas districts, including
Dallas and Houston, as well
as the Texas Education
Agency, have posted their
check registers online.  
That's $31.3 billion worth of
transparency for the parents
and taxpayers footing the
state's education bill
Shine a light on
school spending
Dothan Eagle editorial
Published: January 22, 2009

We applaud state school
board member Betty
Peters of Dothan, who
wants the public to know
how its money is being

This week, Peters urged local
school districts to post some
financial information, such as
details from a check register,
on their Web sites for easy
access by members of the

“In many communities, public
education is suffering from a
lack of trust and support by
the taxpayers and the
voters,” Peters told the Eagle.
“The schools often think the
solution is to hire a public
relations expert, yet the real
answer is to be up front with
the public.”

City and county school
systems operate with tax
funds, and state law requires
that financial information for
those systems be available to
the public.

We see no reason why
Peters’ suggestion should not
be implemented. Taxpayers
deserve a convenient way to
review public spending so
they can make informed
decisions about education-
targeted tax hike proposals.

The additional daylight should
also make school boards and
administrators think twice
about potentially questionable
Dothan Eagle
01.25.09 op-ed
River Cities
(TX)  - also
Betsy Combier
Fox News
May 29, 2009
Tennessean op-ed here
March 2010 - Sunshine Week profile here (TexasWatchdog.org)