State Rep. Holland on school reporting system
Topeka — An education advisory panel on Thursday rejected a proposal to require Kansas school districts to implement a standardized accounting system on how they spend money.
Instead, the 2010 Commission unanimously agreed to recommend that the State Board of Education increase training of clerks who input budget data and update budget reporting practices as they see fit.
The issue - making available more detailed and uniform school budget information - is expected to be rehashed during the 2008 legislative session that starts in January.
State Rep. Lana Gordon, R-Topeka, argued that a centralized school budget accounting and reporting system would give lawmakers, administrators, school boards and the public more accurate information on how school districts spend allocations.
"I have continually been frustrated by the lack of transparency in school finance," Gordon said.
Kansans spend approximately $3 billion per year on public schools - more than half of the state budget. And lawmakers expect to be lobbied for more school funding next session.
"How can you tell me it's not enough funding when you can't see, line by line, what you're spending," Gordon said.
But educators and commissioners argued that while they supported increased disclosure and dissemination of budget information, Gordon's idea would be expensive, impractical and, in the long run, a waste of time and money.
An audit of 20 states similar to Kansas found that 14 of them have standardized accounting systems, under which school districts are required to record uniformly coded data into their computer systems. The report found that Arkansas spent $25 million 12 years ago to implement a financial management system for all its school districts.
"I would prefer those millions of dollars to go into the classroom," said Brenda Dietrich, superintendent of the Auburn-Washburn school district, who was speaking on behalf of the Kansas Association of School Administrators.
"How much money are you willing to spend to get down-to-the-minute information?" Rochelle Chronister, the chairwoman of the 2010 Commission, asked Gordon. Gordon replied that the cost was still unknown and that the state should find out.
State Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, who owns an information technology consulting firm, told the commission there needed to be further study on the proposal before the Legislature voted on it. "The state should first conduct a cost-benefit analysis," Holland said.
Despite the setback, Gordon said she would continue to push for her proposal.