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Editorial: Sun shines on individual school spending

Editorial: Sun shines on individual school spending

Reports will make it easier for taxpayers, parents to evaluate individual schools, tougher for administrators to defend decisions

A new requirement for reporting on school spending will make the job of school board members, administrators and superintendents a lot more difficult.

But it’s going to make the job of taxpayers and parents a whole lot easier. 

Starting with the upcoming school year, all school districts will be forced to submit reports to the state on spending for individual schools, rather than the current requirement of reporting on spending for the entire district.

According to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, districts will be required to break down the money spent on staff versus other expenses, such as curriculum, textbooks and classroom supplies.

They’ll also have to detail what proportion of school spending comes from state, federal and local sources. They’ll have to submit a report on socioeconomic levels and provide a demographic breakdown.

And they’ll have to report per-pupil spending per school.

For some districts, breaking down the allocations to individual schools will be a daunting task, especially if their computer systems aren’t up to the task.

But the more challenging part will come when the numbers are released in 2020 and officials have to start answering questions from parents about such things as why one school got more money for textbooks than their child’s school. Or why one school spends more on teachers than another. A parent might ask why their child is being slighted with a less experienced teaching staff.

People are naturally going to equate school spending with performance.

That will raise questions about whether certain schools within a district are being adequately funded or overfunded, given each school’s test scores, forcing districts to consider reallocating resources.

The numbers also could reveal where individual schools are overspending or wasting money, potentially putting teachers and principals on the spot to defend their spending.

And the numbers could reveal a spending bias against schools with more minorities or poorer students enrolled.

The prospect of having to defend individual school spending will make school officials more cognizant of how they spend taxpayer money and why.

This mandate opens up school spending to a whole new level of transparency. 

The school-by-school information will be more relevant to more parents and taxpayers, and it will open up the door to them asking more detailed questions about spending decisions and about the results from that spending. 

The end result will be more accountability from school districts for their taxpayers’ money.

With that, we all win.

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