The questionably reconstituted Kentucky Board of Education isn’t wasting much time putting to waste one of the more important efforts of the board that was improperly replaced.
Multiple reporters Tweeted out from the new board’s meeting today that the Finance Committee initiated by the ousted board is being disbanded.
That’s a huge mistake.
There are some really pressing issues regarding fiscal transparency that the ousted board’s Finance Committee was trying to improve. This needed special attention from a targeted group because former boards never paid attention to this area, so Kentuckians have never really gotten an accurate picture of the education finance situation as a result.
Now, it looks like we are going to maintain the status quo of fiscal opacity, and that isn’t going to help.
We’ve written plenty over the years about problems with the transparency of education finances in Kentucky.
This bad situation was highlighted years ago in the Legislative Research Commission’s Research Report 338, which revealed that schools and districts were not consistently entering various financial figures under the proper accounting codes in the state’s MUNIS financial accounting system. As a result, the commission was unable to do some badly needed efficiency studies.
Obviously, if the numbers are coded incorrectly, we can’t get a solid idea about how money is really being collected and spent. There are real consequences from such opacity.
For example, back in 2009 the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts reported that there was no way to figure out the real costs of the state’s assessment program, then called CATS, due to the reporting chaos.
Of course, with inaccurate financials, the opportunity for outright criminal activity grows, too, and the state has seen its share of dollars meant for kids walking off in some crook’s pocket, instead.
Furthermore, the current attempt to finally provide school-level financial data is clearly going to be problematic when expenses are not being coded properly, as we found in some more examples recently in Pike County. This extract from Pike County’s 2016-17 school level expenditures report shows an expense for “Instruction” charged to the “Bus Garage.”
But, we don’t do teaching in the Bus Garage.
Kentucky Department of Education personnel informed us that Pike County uses the accounting code that is supposed to be for the Bus Garage for something else, instead. Who knows what that is?
In fact, how can we track if this money really goes for instruction or something else? Maybe, even, into some one’s personal pocket?
So, here’s a big thumbs down for the Kentucky Board of Education’s actions today. This is a major step in the wrong direction.