District Administration May 2018 - 18

BeyondtheNews
COMPLIANCE

In light of a looming ESSA mandate
to increase transparency around education spending, district leaders have been
struggling to calculate per-pupil spending by school in accordance with state
and federal requirements.
Facing a December 2019 deadline,
there is confusion about whether states
will expect school districts to include
the costs of transportation, technology,
special education and pre-K. Calculating
cost per school will also reveal whether
more experienced, higher-paid teachers
are clustered in certain buildings.
"For a long time, we didn't know how
schools and districts were spending their
money, and particularly the difference in
spending between high- and low-poverty
schools in the same district," says Scott
Sargrad, managing director of K12
education at the Center for American
Progress.
State education departments will
decide on the exact requirements, and
districts will have to clear some hurdles
to obtain the necessary data, Sargrad
says. Many administrators are not familiar with calculating expenditures in this
manner, and face technical challenges.

The new regulation
ESSA requires districts to publicly
report the following on a per-pupil,
per-school basis by December 2019:
* Money spent on staff
* Spending from federal, state and
local resources
* Demographic breakdown of student enrollment, including by race,
ethnicity and other factors such as
special education or ELL
Source: ESSA

18 May 2018

Some fear public backlash over the inequities the data may expose.
It's similar to when NCLB required
the desegregation of achievement data
by different subgroups of students-ultimately, it was helpful in identifying
issues, Sargrad says.
District challenges
Indianapolis Public Schools, Indiana's
largest district with 53 schools and
30,000 students, moved to a studentbased allocation formula for the first
time in 2017-18. Its goals were to increase transparency and equity, as well
as to give principals more power over
budgets.
Data quality posed the biggest challenge, says Weston Young, the district's
chief financial manager. Indianapolis
Public Schools also had to upgrade its
financial system and hire additional
skilled staff.
Administrators are still waiting for
the state of Indiana to announce its final
requirements for the ESSA mandate, and
will adjust formulas as needed.
Organizations such as the nonprofit Education Resource Strategies and
Georgetown University's Edunomics Lab
offer guidance to districts and states.
While Baldwin Union Free School
District in Long Island, New York,
began preparing early, the state has
provided little clarification on what the
actual requirements will be, says Superintendent Shari Camhi. The district already breaks out salaries by school, while
instructional and office supplies are
allocated by building. Technology, arts,
athletics and other extracurricular costs
still must be separated.
Districtwide initiatives, such as professional development, legal services,
transportation and special education
pose another challenge. "In these cases,

GETTYIMAGES.COM: ALEX_DOUBOVITSKY

ESSA requirement for in-depth
spending reports looms

the budget will be prepared based on
districtwide numbers and retroactively
separated by building once allocations
are made," Camhi says.
Getting started
To meet the deadline, districts must start
crunching the numbers based on their
state regulations, says Marguerite Roza,
director of the Edunomics Lab and a
research professor at Georgetown University. Once a picture emerges, administrators must get principals involved with
solving equity disparities.
"The real value of the data is if the
discussions around spending ultimately
prompt changes that bring higher outcomes for students," says Roza, who
also works with states and districts on
the requirement. "We won't know if our
money is leveraged well until we start to
look at it with that lens."
Administrators must also be open
with the public about their findings,
Roza says. "Embrace the conversation,"
she says. "See this as an opportunity to
get more eyes on your spending, and
think as a community about the best opportunities going forward."
-Alison DeNisco
District Administration


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration May 2018

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