Education Week - April 19, 2017 - 20
ESSA Aims to Shine Brighter Light on Per-Pupil Spending
finance data," said Maureen Wentworth, the director of education data
and information systems for the
Council of Chief State School Officers. "It's going to open a window of
new conversation across states and
Presenting school spending data
in a comparable way to the public in annual school report cards
starting in 2017-18, as ESSA requires, also could have dramatic
political repercussions, according
to district and state officials who
have conducted such forensic audits in the past. The data could
figure into everything from basic
maintenance to the distribution of
experienced teachers, the fate of
magnet programs, and other sensitive policy decisions.
"There are huge inequities in
spending between some schools,"
said Marguerite Roza, a school
finance professor at Georgetown
University who has audited several districts' budgets to figure out
school-by-school spending. "There
are some schools that are successful with less money, and there
are some that are not. With this
information, states and districts
can tell school principals, 'You're
expensive, but you're lagging compared to your peers.' "
But some local budget directors
warn that comparing school-byschool spending without the proper
context can lead to faulty conclusions by parents and school board
Districts spend their money on
thousands of things, they note.
While teacher salaries make up
the vast majority of the budget, districts also pay for transportation, textbooks, classroom
supplies, building upkeep, and
utilities. Those costs vary widely
depending on a school's demographics, location, and the building's age and condition, the officials point out.
Push for Transparency
When it comes time for the citizens of New Paltz, N.Y., to vote on
their school district's budget, Richard Linden, the assistant superintendent for business, won't guide
voters to the newly available school
spending figures on the state's report card.
"I'm not going to give my voters some sort of artificial thing
because the feds want it," Linden
said. "I'm not going to confuse
my voters with that [school spending data]," he said, "because it's
Average state and district per-
20 | EDUCATION WEEK | April 19, 2017 | www.edweek.org
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
pupil spending amounts typically
are calculated in a pretty straightforward way: Take the amount of
money spent and divide it by the
number of students.
For many districts, though, the
school-by-school spending breakdown has long been a sort of black
box. District officials spend from a
variety of accounts and make a series of subjective calls throughout
the year to keep schools up and
During the drafting of ESSA, the
2015 revision of the No Child Left
Behind Act, Republicans said a
school-by-school accounting would
provide more financial transpar-
High schoolers Jackson
Laferriere, left, and Noah
Lemoine fill out work sheets in
teacher Natalie O'Brien's civics
class in North Smithfield, R.I.
The state already collects
school-level spending data.
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