It's not profound, at least not anymore, and certainly not shocking that those who maintain the databases run the show.
At last night's community forum to discuss the Olympia School District's budget cuts, I saw exactly how that works. In the utter absence of malice, the district has inherited a system of budgeting that hierarchizes and decentralizes information so that only a handful of people know the scope and character of the entire district budget.
So, when 200+ people sit down to go over cuts, they're at a huge epistemic disadvantage. They don't have each building's budget in front of them--where the real details hide--and the district-provided handouts are vague, excepting the specific proposed cuts. How much cash would it save to trim 5% from every WIAA sports or activity program? How much would it raise to implement a $5 pay-to-play increase? How much does Marshall Middle School spend on photocopies? Unless we're the assistant superintendent, we don't know.
I've tried to make things easier on the average citizen by creating an interactive spreadsheet so they can try balancing the budget on their own, but I've only included proposals that I've heard about. Anything truly novel has to spring up out of the void of imagination, rather than the rational crunch of numbers.
District officials, when shown the spreadsheet, have been uniformly excited by it. My next goal is to work with them in an official capacity, to bring the power of information to the masses. Someday, I hope that every district in this state--and everywhere--would be that data-transparent.