The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will change the way your school district manages and reports its finances. How do you know if your district’s data is prepared for ESSA’s new rules?
Here are three things to do today to make sure your school district is ready for ESSA.
1. Audit Your Financial Systems
Take inventory of your financial data systems and processes. Can your existing processes easily and efficiently deliver the data that ESSA mandates?
The statute requires that school districts report spending by location and publish this data in a financial report card. This is intended to help parents and community members understand spending at the school level, and to compare spending across schools. Financial data will need to be easy for a parent to understand and your financial system needs to be equipped to run the reports.
2. Examine Your Financial Processes
Reexamine your chart of accounts and financial processes. Does your district use obscure bookkeeping functions that have been developed over many years (or decades) of tradition or habit? Can a non-financial expert understand the data?
Districts must be able to precisely pinpoint where spending is making an impact, even if the impact is not where the spending originated. For example, if your district purchases ten million dollars worth of computers centrally, the impact of the purchase should be reported for each school receiving the computers. Since this is a new requirement under the law, districts will need to revise their accounting processes.
3. Invest in Financial Skill Development for Ed Leadership
Financial data represents a critical window into how your district is operating and whether your neediest students are receiving the necessary support to succeed. Sophisticated financial planning and analysis should be a core competency for your program and leadership staff. When your budget managers have a solid foundation and are prepared to analyze and evaluate multiple data sets, they can identify trends in spending over time and compare spending across schools or correlate spending to nonfinancial outcomes.
Finding the right partner— one equipped to offer both technology solutions and professional services— will allow school districts to implement the changes in a reasonable timeframe. These partners also may offer professional development training to help the users of your financial systems become even more fluent and proficient as financial managers.
Join us for one of our upcoming webinars on ESSA-ready finances.
About the Author
Chris Rinkus is a Senior District Partner with Allovue. He previously served as Deputy Chief of Student Enrollment & School Funding for the District of Columbia Public Schools in Washington, DC. He redesigned the district’s $500 million school budget planning process, including implementation of a pioneering local funding weight for at-risk students. Chris holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from American University.