District Spending Is About to Get a Lot More Transparent. Are You Ready?

David A. DeSchryver & Noelle Ellerson Ng:

The federal government has never asked this of districts, and few superintendents have thought through the mechanics of the work at the school level. Hard questions are cascading across the country: What to do with shared school costs? What about centrally purchased items? Do existing charts of accounts adequately capture the information required by law? All of these are sticky questions that administrators must soon resolve.
In the short term, superintendents and principals will need to get on the same page about current district allocation policies and practices, why some schools appear to get more resources than others, and how this all aligns with the stated vision and mission of the district.

Consider, for example, a scenario where Elementary School A receives $250 more per pupil than Elementary School B down the road. Why is that happening? Perhaps School A serves more students with learning disabilities. If so, why is that the case? Perhaps High School C benefits from more state and local per-pupil revenue than a neighboring school because of an effort to better serve regional workforce technology campaigns. Is that a fair distribution of resources? If the allocations seem to contradict the district’s stated objectives, what will be done to adjust the investment strategy?

The earlier that district leaders begin to pay attention to these matters, the less disruptive the new reporting and transparency will be for school and district staff faced with new questions from the public.