IMPROVING K-12 FINANCIAL ANALYSIS, PT. 1
A financial analysis model should be created to augment the existing Arkansas Public School System Computer Network (APSCN) accounting/reporting system, with the adequate appropriation of funds. (Murphy Commission, Policy Foundation project, 1998 recommendation)
(February 2012) The creation of a uniform accounting system for Arkansas K-12 school districts is one reform of the post-Lakeview policy environment.
The system presents district data in 89 separate categories, including some discussed by the Policy Foundation in a 1998 report.1 The state Department of Education presents the data in an annual statistical report.2
The annual report can assist parents seeking answers to questions. Parents, for example, can examine the categorical allocation of tax dollars within districts. These include regular instruction, general administration, maintenance and operation of plant services, student transportation, instructional staff support, school administrative services, and debt service.3
The department reports data on an annual, not multiyear basis. An accounting snap shot presents a different financial portrait than an album. The 2009-10 report shows debt service in the Pulaski County Special School District declining from $11,109,010 (2009-10 actual) to $ 11,041,745 (2010-11 budget), less than one percent. The more meaningful comparison is the multiyear percentage increase—nearly 130 percent--in Pulaski County Special’s debt service, which was reported as $4,850,007 (2005-6).
The state Department of Education should also report educational data (categories 1 thru 89) to parents on a multiyear basis.
1 Policy Foundation, “Streamlining and Cost-Saving Opportunities in Arkansas’ K-12 Public Education System”
3 “Expenditures for paying the district’s debt, including principal, interest and fiscal fees.”