Where does the money go?

School districts have trouble tracking spending, writes Marguerite Roza in Educational Economics: Where Do School Funds Go? (Urban Institute Press). District averages mask wide variations in the “distribution of experienced teachers, enrichment programs, and social services among schools in the same district.” Some districts spend more per student at schools in affluent neighborhoods than in poor neighborhoods.

School spending has doubled in 30 years in real dollars, Roza points out. It’s impossible to link spending to the district’s priorities if officials don’t know where the money’s going.

Education Trust’s new report, Close the Hidden Funding Gaps in our Schools, calls for rewriting Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to ensure that federal funds for low-income students buys extra help for those students, instead of being used to fill local funding gaps.

For example, in 2007-08, half of New York City’s Title I schools (serving poor children) received less state and local funding than non-Title I schools serving more affluent students.

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  1. This is a very interesting post. I’m sure there are many people asking similar questions about education funding. I think it would really help to have a more consistent budget reporting system.

  2. Ol’ Marguerite ought to drop by the Detroit Public Schools district if she wants to know how to squander public money meant to educate kids and they’ll show how to do it without blushing. The DPS stands second to none when it comes to wasting public money and children’s lives!

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    The DPS is certainly a candidate for Exhibit One status.
    But I recall a critic of the LAUSD saying it was “aggressively incompetent” and “adamantly unaccountable”, the latter referring to money matters.

  4. Need I mention the MANY curriculums that were bought with “free” money that sat, unopened, in storage rooms, until they were finally thrown out.
    As long as districts have the idea that getting the money is more important than what they do with the money, this will continue.

  5. tim-10-ber says:

    I would like to know what were the results of the programs implemented, staff/teachers/consultants et al hired, etc…

    Guys — there are huge pieces of education that are and should be run as a business fully accountable to the stakeholders – the taxpayers in the community, the students and their families and the employers…

    Why don’t educators understand this. They need a strong financial, business leader who has successfully operated “branches” with unique clients who have unique needs, understands accountability, cost accounting, measuring results, etc and a strong curriculum leader who can balance the business aspect and help everyone understand they are all working to improve the lives of the students in their schools and design the academic programs to make them successful…

    The “CFO” of our district is a great person. But his skills are that of a controller – someone who just follows orders rather than establishes the financial systems with the appropriate checks and balances…

  6. American school districts have trouble tracking their money because American school district business managers and officials have little or no professional-level training in accounting, auditing, finance and related management issues. Additionally, overall, the American public education industry is under-audited and monitored externally in comparison with most governmental entities, and thus hasn’t been forced to develop the necessary skills sets. Finally, the imputation of good will and kindliness for just about everyone who works in a school, whether public or private, means that management actions and decisions are not scrutinized with any degree of rigor, and frankly, it is extremely easy to steal or misappropriate education entities’ funds.

    Since USDOE does not require that federal funds be returned to it when USDOE OIG audits, or audits from lower levels of government, show that these funds have been wasted, misappropriated or stolen, it’s a lose-lose situation for the kids, their parents and taxpayers overall.

    Dee Alpert, Publisher

  7. Tim, it’s you who don’t understand the situation.

    You seem to think the education professionals and public officials responsible for the misuse of public funds ought to understand that they are responsible for public funds and act accordingly when in fact those folks are reacting to the situation as it is. In fact, there is a system of accountability; a crappy, ineffective, inefficient, inaccurate system of accountability but then no one’s ever accused the democratic process of effectiveness, efficiency, accuracy or emitting a pleasant odor.

    Once every year or so those voters who are interested enough – parents, teachers, some folks on a fixed income – get to troop to the polls to select among the thin pickings common to school board elections. Then the members who are elected who don’t have a predetermined agenda like, say, those who adore the teacher’s unions, run up against an entrenched bureaucracy that knows a whole lot more about the business of public education then the elected board and prefers as much independence as possible from the amateurs with which they’re saddled.

    Given the above circumstances the wonder isn’t that so much money is squandered but that any gets spent on educating children.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    Must be the reason Obama and Ayers could spend $150,000,000 in the Chicago Annenberg Challenge with absolutely no discernible results.
    In Chicago.
    Resulting in…no story.
    $150 mill goes missing in Chicago and it’s all good? Nothing shady?
    In Chicago?
    Why? Because it’s for the children, hence unassailable.

  9. Is it the lack of software or tools to manage the funds properly or is it problems with allocation? In the case of the New York schools, was the funds just not properly distributed to the right schools, or was the schools not given the funding because their request or needs were not documented accurately.

    In California, because of State financial woes, many schools are cutting back hours, supplies, and other needs just to keep the lights on and the teachers in place. It’s getting to be a huge problem for our schools and we’ve got to stop bailing out banks and start putting that money towards our future, the kids.

  10. tim-10-ber says:

    allen — we are on the same page…geez…truce? i think educators are very close minded, scared to open their field to the outsiders they so badly need to run the multi-billion dollar business…they are funded by taxpayer money — the taxpayers get screwed and are dumb enough to sit back and let it happen…ugh…I am tired of how dumb/naive people are…sadly most people were educated in government schools…I call a spade a spade…I have higher expectations (don’t ask me why) of people that are managing other people’s money…but…they didn’t learn these skills in government schools, did they…

    may I am too much of an idealist/realist (which is the correct word) and see simple solutions to major problems… the challenges are getting the educators to open their eyes and see how many problems they are causing because as Dee said…they do not have the skill sets necessary to run the business…ugh!


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