Friday, September 24, 2010

Transparency is Key

This week, we had an interesting presentation to the Budget Review Subcommittee of the Kentucky General Assembly.

The committee had asked for several updates. We provided an update on the funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), an update on the new school facility classification system, an update on school calendars, an update on school tax levies and an update on end-of-year fund balances for school systems.

This week also saw the release of a tremendous amount of test data from our Kentucky Core Content Tests, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, No Child Left Behind targets, gap-to-goal information and our new report required by 2009’s Senate Bill 1 for college and career readiness of the graduating class of 2010. If you missed this data, please visit our new OpenHouse site.

Issues around school calendars were of particular interest to legislators at the committee meeting. During the 2010 legislative session, the General Assembly reduced funding from the 2008-10 budget, providing one fewer day of instruction for the 2011-12 biennium. The information I presented at the meeting is as follows:

Instructional days -- 87 districts reduced the number of instructional days this year, while 13 increased days, and 74 districts maintained the same number of instructional days.
Teacher contract days -- 84 districts had no change in contract days, while 37 districts reduced contract days by one, and 53 districts reduced contract days by two.

We have released a tremendous amount of data, and we have a guiding principle of transparency of data at KDE. For that purpose, we also are providing access to the reports provided to the Budget Review Subcommittee. You can see those on my presentations page here.

We encourage school districts to be fully transparent about their fund balances and for what purposes those funds will be used. As a former superintendent, I certainly realize the need to have cash flow to meet payroll demands prior to tax receipts. I also know that many of our school systems are saving funds for early childhood centers, school facilities, textbooks, new school start-up costs and sick leave payment. Also, most financial experts recommend a 6-8 percent fund balance for emergency purposes. All of these purposes are valid; however, it is important to keep citizens fully informed of these and other issues.

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