How much does my child’s school really spend each year? It’s a very reasonable question, one we get asked at the Bluegrass Institute.
Unfortunately, we’ve had to answer for years that we really don’t know. The reason is that the data provided by the state, such as in the Kentucky School Report Cards system, just doesn’t look trustworthy to us when we get down to talking about individual schools.
And, this situation isn’t unique to Kentucky by any means. On February 27, 2018, Education Week reported (subscription?) that state education departments all across the country are in a dither because a new feature in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires accurate reporting about school level spending no later than December 2019. To be sure, this data is vitally important, but we don’t have solid figures in Kentucky and apparently that is also true in most other states, as well.
And, that is a problem. Business expert and Kentucky Board of Education associate member (and past board chair at BIPPS) Kathy Gornik pointed out during the board’s meeting earlier this month that a lack of such data prevents making intelligent decisions about education priorities, especially in a cash-constrained situation like Kentucky has now.
And, as Education Week’s article amplifies, the lack of accurate education financials also makes it hard for the public to know if money is actually being spent wisely and on the areas intended.
We simply don’t know if districts are skimming too much off the top at the expense of schools when the fiscal data simply are not transparent and useful.
A lack of accurate and transparent data also makes it hard to evaluate educator claims about being under-funded.
One thing’s for sure; the school funding data Kentuckians can access now sure seem dubious. If you doubt that, just click the read more link.