In nearly every election, the public has the legal right to know which advocacy groups and contributors pay for the attempts at persuasion it's bombarded with. In New York State, one of the rare exceptions is school budget votes. That's unwise, and it will be increasingly troubling if the proposed property tax cap passes and more school budget battles turn ugly.
A bill sponsored by state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), and by Sam Hoyt (D-Buffalo) in the Assembly, would require groups trying to influence school budget votes to attach their names to their efforts if they spend more than $1,000, treating school budget votes like other significant elections in terms of disclosure. That's a smart move toward transparency that would serve voters well.
The lack of disclosure in school budget campaigns became a major issue this year in the Albany school district, where thousands of dollars spent by nameless groups on robocalling and mailers meant to defeat the budget came from a group dedicated to charter schools. It's fine that such narrowly focused groups fight for their cause, but they should have to say who they are. In New York State, beyond educating children, there are many concerns involved in the politics of school budgets.
The meaning of a message is affected by the identity of the messenger. In every election, taxpayers have a right to know who is funding the attempts to sway them.