Countdown to the ESSA Financial Transparency MandatePosted on Dec 7, 2018 12:25:38 PM
At the end of this school year (FY2019), all states and local school districts will be required to report per-pupil expenditure data at the school level as mandated by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The new ESSA financial requirements include reporting money spent on staff compared with other expenses at the school - and the proportionate levels of federal, state, and local funding at each. ESSA’s overall purpose is to provide clear and transparent information for critical measures on school progress and equity. It empowers local school leaders to more effectively leverage their school level data and allows for better understanding and improved decision-making for the benefit of the students being served in the districts.
In accordance with the new law, each school district must report per-pupil expenditures in total and disaggregated by source. For determining the per-pupil expenditures, the numerator of the calculation will consist of current expenditures (including actual personnel costs and non-personnel expenditures of Federal, State, and Local funds used for education). These reported expenditures will generally account for daily operations of school districts, including - but not limited to - instruction and support, administration, student services, transportation, building operations and maintenance, and other expenditure categories as designated by each respective state agency. Some expenditure categories that do not reflect costs for Pre-K through Grade 12 students being served, may be excluded from the total such as Adult or Community Services, Debt Service, and Capital Outlay for purchases of land, school construction, and equipment (as defined by each state agency). The denominator of the calculation will consist of the aggregate number of students being served and enrolled in preschool through grade 12 for each district.
With the ESSA reporting requirement, many state agencies have engaged in statewide planning discussions around specific implementation procedures, opportunities, and challenges for meeting the reporting requirement. In the interest of providing support to school districts for interpreting, communicating, and standardizing reporting, many state agencies have established, or begun developing, guidelines and procedures for dissemination to districts. These address reporting plans and parameters related to student counts, reporting format, expenditure inclusions and exclusions, and special circumstances.
In advance of imminent reporting period requirements and establishment of state-specific guidelines for completing the reporting requirements, each school district can begin preparing for the ESSA reporting requirement with a review and assessment of the state and/or district’s data readiness. The basic framework areas to review are:
Telling Your Story
For the first time, school district report cards will be reporting per student costs down to the school building level. These school-level costs will likely produce variations in amounts and will necessitate well-thought-out communication for effective understanding and perspective. Being proactive in preparing to “tell your story” will prove to be a positive first step. Absent a preemptive plan and message, school level variations will be subject to stakeholder interpretation and may not accurately reflect key programmatic and staffing service allocations that support the District’s overall educational plan.
Early exploration of site-based estimated results, in advance of the school year end, will afford school leaders the opportunity to better understand their costs. Reviewing preliminary cost factors and budget allocations in advance, is timely for constructing the “story narrative”. District variations in programmatic services to students for special education, English Language Learners, economically disadvantaged, building utilization, enrollment, school size, and teacher compensation and experience levels are a few of the key drivers of school spending variations. School districts know their data best – prepare in advance to highlight and “tell your story”.
The format of the final report will be determined by each state agency. In the meantime, each district or LEA should assess if they are ready for these updated requirements by considering the following questions.
What is the ESSA Reporting Solution?
Forecast5™ Analytics is a proven national provider of software analytic solutions to school districts. In anticipation of the financial reporting requirement, Forecast5 is positioned to be an efficient ESSA reporting solution with 5Cast™ Plus. 5Cast Plus is the quantitative analysis and financial projection engine used to assist decision-making processes for current-year projection analysis.
The program offers an easy-to-use tool that outputs Excel spreadsheets that comply with the ESSA reporting requirements. Because 5Cast Plus accommodates monthly uploads of revenue and expenditure actuals, the data already exists in the system. The General Ledger detail (account code) is easily disaggregated in 5Cast and 5Cast Plus by client specific account code mapping hierarchy. This allows for the General Ledger detail to be disaggregated for real-time spending analysis by Funds, Functions, Object Details, Locations, and Fund Source. From this, a preliminary review of ESSA report results is possible in minutes. Learn more about our ESSA solution here.
The ESSA report Excel template provides for:
- Time savings
- Enrollment input
- Source designation
- Allocation method Input
- Allocation method assignment
- Summary to validate general ledger totals
Experienced educational financial advisors provide:
- Access to general ledger detail (account code) through 5Cast Plus
- Knowledge of applicable state reporting guidance for meeting prescribed ESSA reporting requirements
- Knowledge of applicable state chart of accounts and mapping hierarchy
- Familiarity with various accounting systems to help leaders plan, monitor, and evaluate spending
- 5Cast ESSA report Excel template reviewed with respective state Department of Education (DOE) and Association of School Board Officials (ASBO) affiliates
David joined Forecast5 Analytics in 2014 and is responsible for the product management, development, and outreach of Forecast5’ s quantitative analysis and financial projection engine – 5Cast. He also assists with the management of 5Cast client relationships. Prior to joining Forecast5 Analytics, he worked as a Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer for over 30 years at Township High School District 211, in Palatine, Illinois. During his extensive experience as a CFO, he successfully engaged in the development of several strategic planning projects and long-term capital improvement programs. David received his BA in Business Economics, and has a MA and certification in school business management.