Sunshine Review grades transparency in the states


Sunshine Review, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency, released their 2013 Transparency Report Card grading every state and the largest counties, cities and school districts within each state on the availability of information on government websites. Government websites were graded “A” to “F” measuring available content available against a checklist of information all governments should provide to citizens.

According to the report, state websites are outperforming their local counterparts with 26% scoring in the “A” range, and 60% scoring a “B” or above. Only 28% of counties scored a “B” or above and less than half of municipalities scored a “B” or above.

School districts were by far the least transparent with only 20% scoring a “B” or above. As CivSource has reported, school districts have a history of opposition to posting information like teacher performance or budget appropriations online. Based on the data in the report it appears they will continue to keep that information away from the public.

A larger majority of states failed to receive “A” because of their failure to proactively disclosing lobbying data, disclosing how to attain public records and ease-of-use for tracking down data, the report authors note. The Sunshine Review has a 10 point checklist that takes these factors and others into account when assigning a grade. These criteria resulted from a coordinated effort of over 100 pro-transparency organizations, including the Goldwater Institute, the Lucy Burns Institute, the Sunlight Foundation, Open City, Webitects, and the Journalism Department of Columbia College.

The full report breaks out each state grade between the overall score, county, city and school district grades. The review has been released every year since 2008. In this year’s review, the top five best performing states were California, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington. The five worst performing states include: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska and South Dakota.