Amidst the current debate about school funding in Massachusetts and growing calls for spending more, comes a potentially game-changing new federal requirement that will bring greater transparency to school spending. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed with bi-partisan support by Congress in 2015, requires states to report per pupil expenditure by school, including actual personnel and non-personnel expenditures of Federal, State and local funds.
This is a significant change. With new information about school spending, we’ll be able to know whether we’re leveraging dollars to get the most for students; determine whether spending disparities among schools in the same district reinforce existing inequities; and, make informed spending decisions. Accessing this kind of data is why the Foundation Budget Review Commission called for establishing a data advisory group. Now the question is how Massachusetts will use this opportunity to harness the power of data to drive improvement and innovation in our schools.
Over the coming months, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will determine how it will implement the requirement to report per pupil expenditure by school.
At a U.S. Chamber of Commerce meeting on ESSA last week, MBAE’s Director of Affiliate Network Growth and Strategy, Ryan Flynn, learned that some states are planning to go beyond ESSA requirements to report school spending by budget category, as our state currently does at the district level. Massachusetts could also develop and report measures of where the greatest impact per dollar is being achieved among schools with similar characteristics.
As DESE works to implement the spending requirement, we have a chance to take a big step toward assuring that we put our education dollars behind the schools that need them and the practices that work. It’s time we engage a broad group of stakeholders to determine how we seize it.