Education Finance and Accountability
Educational accountability just makes sense. Parents everywhere trusts in the system to provide educations that will enrich their children’s lives. Accountability comes into play so that parents and students everywhere can be assured that the school is doing its part. Often times, accountability manifests itself in terms of the school being held responsible for the performance of its students, as measured by standardized tests.
Importance of Education Accountability
Accountability also plays a role in holding teachers liable for their performance and incorporation of current pedagogy, as well as holding students accountable for their own attitude and approach to school. Either way, accountability is the factor that keeps everyone responsible for something, so that schools can’t get away with overlooking a key component in education.
However, schools must be accountable in another way, and that is how they spend their money, or their financing. This is also the area that tends to get the most problematic. Tons of money are spent annually on public schools and it is nearly impossible to track where all of it goes, especially considering the nation as a whole. Financial accountability can be held at the college level as well. Universities take in a lot of money from their students via tuition, but need to be held accountable in terms of what they are actually using that money for.
It is much easier to look at a school’s collective test scores and see whether or not they are good in providing a quality education than it is to hold a school accountable for its finances.
Organizations For Tracking Education Finance
In order to better hold the education system accountable at a financial level, many people have formed teams to do so. For example, the Texas Education Accountability Project formed in order to investigate allegations that the Texas public school system had not lived up to the necessary components of being constitutional. This group worked together in order to attempt to identify a set of quantifiable metrics that could be used across the board to evaluate the efficiency, suitability, and/or adequacy of the current public education system in regards to spending.
Such an endeavor is highly important and it is good that many interested persons have formed groups like this across the United States, because coming up with a set of quantifiable metrics as applied to efficiency has always been difficult. Schools themselves have never been particularly forthcoming in terms of providing evidence that their spending has been in order to reach those goals, and so applying such metrics is one step towards holding schools accountable.
Unfortunately, what the TEAP (Texas Education Accountability Project) and many other such groups found was that schools were in fact not being held financially accountable. Schools simply spent their money and taxpayers had no idea what their funds were actually being used for. Thus, part of the problem falls within the realm of communication.
It is highly impossible for parents and other taxpayers to understand in a tangible way where their money goes, when really it is the job of schools to articulate how their funds are used. Annual financial reports would seemingly do that job, but instead fall prey to obscure categories and items that don’t communicate anything about actual expenditures.
Therefore, many have proposed the solution that the current way that school finances are reported be changed. It is a design flaw that the average, taxpaying citizen cannot understand such materials. Even more problematically, many legislators would be at a loss to actually understand what schools are spending their money on, begging the question: how can legislators put forth policies concerning education financing and accountability if they are uninformed?
This solution is a start in allowing parents and legislators and schools to communicate in a clear and concise way about where all the money is going. Once people understand where the money is going schools can possibly be held accountable. That accountability is essential in order to determine that no money is going to waste and is being spent in order to best serve the needs of students and/or faculty.
It is too early to see any real progress made in this area, but hopefully things will improve. Now more than ever it seems as though people are demanding information, demanding that schools answer to them. After all, schools offer a service of education, and if that service is deemed to be inadequate, then there must be repercussions. It is only natural for the education system to be held financially accountable when so much money goes into it on a regular basis.
Information is the key behind the idea that schools improve their financial reports. Only by having all average taxpayers able to comprehend the expenditures can any true progress be made in terms of analyzing, critiquing, and improving the finances involved in the educational systems across the country.