Fiscal Transparency is Critical to Improving our Schools
The Pelican Institute is excited to report that the Louisiana Legislature has passed legislation that requires local public-school systems to make information about school spending more readily available to parents and communities. It now heads to Governor Edwards for signature.
Louisiana spends over $13,000 per student, the highest in the Southeast, for some of the lowest educational outcomes. According to the legislative fiscal office, public elementary and secondary schools in the state are projected to spend over $6.5 billion in fiscal year 2021-2022, including $3.8 billion in state Minimum Foundation Program money and nearly $3 billion in federal COVID relief funds. 94 percent of Louisianans agree that there needs to be transparency in where school districts are spending this large portion of tax payer dollars.
Parents of children enrolled in public schools deserve to know how dollars are being spent so they can be informed, engaged in local decision-making, and hold local school leaders accountable for outcomes. This is especially important for the approximately 300 D and F rated schools around the state that have been formally identified by the state for improvement and are receiving extra funds for interventions.
Fiscal transparency empowers parents and other taxpayers with school spending information in two new ways. Larger school systems that enroll over 2,500 students will be required to post detailed information about revenues, expenditures, contracts, and other financial matters on the “Louisiana Checkbook” website. Smaller school systems and state-operated schools will be required to post annual budgets, audits, and quarterly financial reports on their website beginning this fall. This information will serve as additional resources in addition to the Louisiana Department of Education’s “School-by-School Financial Data” database that provides the public with school-level financial information.
Public schools are our schools. Your schools. They are taxpayer-funded critical enterprises in local communities charged with equipping our children with the knowledge and skills they need to be competitive and drive our economy forward. We urge citizens to take full advantage of these new resources to engage in local discussions about how to best use available funding to serve our children and improve local and state education outcomes.