Blog Post 3: Preparing to Transparently Report Spending Per Student: State Perspectives

This blog is the third in an ongoing series on how states and districts can improve resource allocation decision-making. For the first blog post in the series, click here; for the second blog post in the series, click here.

The first blog post in this series addressed four areas that school districts should look at to prepare themselves for the financial transparency provision in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The second blog post explored how to incorporate per-pupil expenditure data into district- and school-level resource allocation decision-making beyond finances. This third post focuses on the experiences of state educational agencies (SEAs) in preparing for financial transparency reporting. The State Support Network spoke with Sara R. Shaw, Senior Manager of Fiscal and Academic Solvency at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and with Michael Wiltfong, Director of School Finance and School Facilities at the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), to learn more about what they have done in their states. The blog post provides a snapshot of Illinois and Oregon’s implementation of financial transparency reporting as of 2018.

Financial Transparency in Illinois

In Illinois, we have districts that are looking forward to using these data points to tell their stories, and we are building in a narrative section on our public report card where districts can do just that. Sara R. Shaw from ISBE shared the following considerations as part of her reflections on the work in Illinois:

  • Ensure diverse representation in stakeholder meetings. “At least three times in our advisory group process, we looked around the table and recognized that key stakeholders were not represented adequately. Whether it was the inclusion of more rural school districts, more superintendents, or more parent and community representatives, our planning, implementation, and communications benefitted greatly from these voices being part of the process.”
  • Share actionable stories using the data. “In Illinois, we have districts that are looking forward to using these data points to tell their stories, and we have storytellers at ISBE (literally; that is their title) standing at the ready to collect and publish those stories. The more we can highlight spaces in which districts are using these data points for the good of their students, the more we inspire peer-to-peer learning and more districts doing the same.”

Since the original 2018 interview that informed this blog post and the Illinois profile, Illinois has successfully published its first year of school spending data. The data set is available at under the School Finances tab available for every school and district. Visualizations are designed to inspire inquiries and open conversations within districts and communities. Future Illinois work will focus on raising up those conversations for the benefit of students.

For more information on the work related to financial transparency in Illinois, see the full profile of Illinois here.

Financial Transparency in Oregon

Oregon collaborated with and learned from other states on how to maximize the use of financial transparency data. Michael Wiltfong from ODE shared the following considerations as part of his reflections on the work in Oregon:

  • Collaborate with other states and partners to share ideas. “At the recommendation of the Council of Chief State School Officers, staff at the ODE formed a partnership with the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University, along with 23 other states, and we began reviewing the ESSA requirement and the capability of the participating states. This group became the Financial Transparency Working Group, and they were very helpful as we started thinking in critical terms about how to go about this work.”
  • Look to other states as models. “There was a lot of review of what other states already had in place, as some had mandates for school-level expenditure reporting prior to the ESSA requirement. States such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Georgia all had some form of a working school-level model that had been in existence for several years, and they were helpful and informative as to their challenges in many aspects of implementation.”

For more information on Oregon’s financial transparency work, see the full profile of Oregon here.

Coming Soon…

Next week, this blog series will share examples from districts currently engaged in this work. Look for the following post in this blog series:

  • Blog Post 4: Recap The fourth blog in the series will summarize the key takeaways from the series and highlight the work happening at the district level around school-level spending reporting in Oregon and North Carolina.

Click here for the next post in the series, “Preparing for the Transparency Provision: Perspectives From Districts.”