Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) introduced a new bill last week that, if passed, will require the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) to comply with the Right to Know Law. Currently, PSBA, as with most other private institutions, is not subject to public requests for information.

Despite their private agency status, the organization is funded primarily through taxpayer dollars. School boards that join PSBA pay membership fees and those expenditures are paid from the district’s budget. PSBA reports, “over the past several decades, voluntary membership by traditional public school entities has been nearly 100 percent.”

In addition, PSBA employees are included in the state pension system. According to Phillips-Hill, this is the major impetus for the proposed legislation.

“Unlike other associations representing local elected officials, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association is the only entity that is on the state pension system — paid for with taxpayer dollars. Additionally, taxpayers also reimburse social security benefits, too. We have tried for years to remove them from the pension system, but have hit a roadblock over who is stuck with the multi-million dollar liability. If they are participants in the state pension system, afforded to state and public school employees, they should be bound by the same Right-to-Know requirements every state agency and public school currently adheres to.”

The language in Senate Bill 1175 is straightforward. “The Pennsylvania School Boards Association shall be considered a State-affiliated entity under the act of February 14, 2008 (P.L.6, No.3), known as the “Right-to-Know Law.”

PSBA’s website confirms that they will not respond to public inquiries. “PSBA is a private, nonprofit association dedicated to serving our members. We are not a regulatory body or state agency; therefore, we are not able to assist with citizen inquiries.”

Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (PIAA) is subject to the Right to the Know Law. According to their website, the PIAA is also a non-profit, voluntary membership organization that sets standards for middle and high school sports.

“Therefore, as PIAA undertakes state action and is funded primarily by public school districts, the General Assembly’s classification of PIAA as a state-affiliated entity for the purpose of qualifying as an agency under the RTKL has a rational basis and furthers a legitimate state interest of transparency in PIAA’s use of public funds in a manner which dramatically impacts students’ lives,” the court ruled.

The State Supreme Court ruled that PIAA is subject to the Right to Know Law because they are a “state affiliated” entity, despite the fact that their staff are not included in the state pension system. PSBA is also a state affiliated entity that represents the interests of elected school board members, and their employees are members of the state pension system.

It stands to reason that PSBA should be subject to the Right to Know Law.

Currently, PSBA collects membership dues from the majority, if not all, school districts in the state. These dues are paid from the districts’ budgets that are funded by taxpayers. Yet, taxpayers do not have access to any information about the organization. Neither their membership list nor their dues structure is not publicly accessible.

Taxpayers cannot question their expenditures, the policies they promulgate for districts, or training sessions that they offer. For example, the PSBA Trust Institute hosted an “international education study group” this year in Germany. The advertisement stated that the organization secured “outside funding to cover all direct program costs.” This included airfare, hotel accommodations, meals, and transportation. Participants were expected to contribute $250 towards the trip. 

Since they are not subject to the law, there is no way to discover who funded the trip.

PSBA did not return a request for comment inquiring about PSBA’s relationship with the Institute or about the new proposed bill.

Beth Ann Rosica resides in West Chester, has a Ph.D. in Education, and has dedicated her career to advocating on behalf of at-risk children and families. She covers education issues for Broad + Liberty. Contact her at

One thought on “Beth Ann Rosica: Should taxpayer-funded organizations be subject to the state Right to Know Law?”

  1. “PSBA employees are included in the state pension system. According to Phillips-Hill, this is the major impetus for the proposed legislation.”
    This fact means that the employees of the PSBA are public employees and absolutely should be subject to the Commonwealth’s sunshine law. Additionally, their meetings should be open to the public and the minutes of its formal meetings should also be made available. I am on the board of a Charter School in PA and all of these requirements are in force with regard to our board meetings as well. Also, our salary schedule is a public document – does the same hold true for the PSBA?

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