A coalition of South Dakota school boards is suggesting that districts post their legal notices on the internet, rather than publish them in local newspapers.
The Associated School Board of South Dakota, which represents 176 school boards statewide, supports legislation that would authorize schools and other governments to use a web site instead of conventional publishing.
“It would save some money,” said Henry Kosters, assistant executive director of the organization. He estimates the school boards spend several million dollars each year on legal advertising.
Under South Dakota law, governments such as schools, counties, cities, and townships must publish their legal notices in newspapers they designate. The law also sets a maximum rate that a newspaper may charge.
In Sioux Falls, for example, the school board spends $34,000 to publish its notices in the Argus Leader, part of the district’s $122 million budget.
But Dave Bordewyk, general manager of the South Dakota Newspaper Association, fears the proposal would do more harm than good. If legal notices are on the internet, fewer people would learn what school boards are doing, Bordewyk argued.
More people read newspapers than surf the internet, he said.
“Obviously, it is a source of revenue, but it’s also newspapers believing in the public’s right to know,” he said. “If you believe in our government and the way things work . . . there should be an account to the public.”
School boards wouldn’t abandon newspapers right away, Kosters said. “(But) technology is evolving so fast, it just seems like the next step.”
Local school boards are scheduled to vote on the plan in August at their annual meeting in Sioux Falls.