Issue: Poor Tracking
Even though we realized we had a problem with both the access to real-time financial data and the financial acumen of our district administrators, we didn’t yet have a solution. The most pressing issue was that district administrators were not tracking their dollars well, or weren’t doing it in conjunction with the latest budget figures at their fingertips. Because the financial data they had was often weeks old, when they spent money, they would often go over budget.
Think about your own household budget. Can you imagine spending money without knowing if you had money in the account or access to a system that allowed for tracking up-to-date transactions?
Last year, our district realized we were missing a lot by not looking in real-time at how funding impacts student outcomes, so we resolved to do something.
A Peer-Recommended Solution
I attended a seminar on the subject and asked other districts what they did. A lot of them were in the same boat as us, but we also heard a lot about advances in software that can organize financial data in a coherent way, making it not only searchable but actionable. For a district such as ours, still trying to get our financial data into Excel spreadsheets, this was a revelation.
As we set out to search for a solution, we identified that we wanted to have:
- Real-time access to financial data;
- A way to analyze our spending by location; and
- A way to connect spending to student outcomes.
Since 2015, we have been working with a company called Allovue to implement a solution called Balance | Manage to solve the issues of access and analysis. We also engaged with Allovue to help train our administrators to think more strategically about their budgets.
I won’t lie: it’s an involved process, and will continue well into the next year, but our hope is that our principals will begin to plan, allocate, and spend strategically. Now, every dollar they spend will be tied to back to staff, programs, technology, and other uses that directly impact student outcomes.
My financial staff are always searching for different financial data to answer questions from program leaders, school administrators, the Board of Education, and the Superintendent. I love that I can search for financial information and find it fast.
We are finally moving away from the days of outdated financial data and 500-page reports. Data holds so much promise for us, our principals, and, most of all, our students. I believe we owe it to our students to not just have data sit in a spreadsheet, but to have the access, skills, and dedication to make data work for them.
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