School Business Affairs February 2019

24 FEBRUARY 2019 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS I nvestors take note: Business intelligence that relies on a dis- trict’s budget and fiscal data will become a fast-growing K–12 market in the next five years. Today, that may not be the case; just bran- dishing the title of chief financial officer at a conference tends to ward people off. There are few who relish discussions about ledger-transfers and the complexity of central versus school-level per-pupil expenditures. The problem is not that these conversations are dry. (They are.) It’s that most conversations about a school’s expenses don’t sync up to what’s happening in the classroom— the instruction, materials, and tools that shape the educational experi- ence for teachers and students. That’s soon to change. School finance is set to become an impor- tant lens into good schooling, and it’s very likely that there are three phases to this transition. Phase One: Reaction Many school leaders are about to be caught off guard by the fiscal trans- parency requirement in new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The law requires every state and district to publish, at the school level, per- pupil expenditures for actual person- nel and non-personnel costs by each funding source (federal, state, and local funds). The data are now being gathered and they need to be ready for publication on the 2019-2020 state and district report cards. Some state education agencies are working with their districts to develop reliable and consistent processes to collect this data, but they are largely the exception. Most schools do not currently collect this kind of information or if they do, they have not had to report it to the public. To get the information ready for the 2019-2020 report cards, the financial data will inevitably require scrutiny, revision, and repair. This will not be a trouble-free process. As Marguerite Roza, director at the Edunomics Lab and facilitator of the state agency working group on this issue, observes: “Most principals have not been included in discus- sions about what things cost or about how to divvy up district funds SCHOOL FINANCE The Actual Dollars That Will Shape the New K–12 Investment Ecosystem Three phases define the emerging impact finance will have on education. By David DeSchryver and Noelle Ellerson Ng BILLIONPHOTOS.COM/STOCK.ADOBE.COM