Guide to Understanding School Reporting, Funding & Compliance
In a recent survey, a majority of school business officials responded that they gained their experience outside of K-12. Those who did start out in K-12 usually didn’t begin as an administrator or official; they worked their way up through the ranks. There are so many regulations that are specific to the K-12 world that it’s hard to balance it all, even with the best intentions!
We’ve designed this guide to provide school district administrators and business officials with a K-12 resource to help navigate the intricacies of school reporting, funding and compliance.
Why Is School Reporting Important?
School districts are responsible for collecting, maintaining and reporting on thousands of data points from the business office to the classroom. Every year the federal government and state departments of education ask districts to report on this data through scheduled submissions. Each submission has a very specific format for what data is collected and how it’s to be communicated. Why are districts asked to report on data ranging from student to personnel and finance information every year?
The work of school reporting – from data collection and entry to validation and state submission – is in an effort to represent your school district accurately to ensure the most funding possible. More funding means more dollars being allocated to ensure the absolute best learning experience for your students. And funding the hopes and dreams of your students is the ultimate goal, right?
Well, collecting all of that data comes with its own set of risks. Enter the mandates on compliance and ensuring that data is being stored and handled properly and ethically. Is your student data secure? Are you spending and tracking your funding appropriately? Continue reading to learn more about accurately collecting and reporting on data for optimum funding and compliance.
Federal Funding & Reporting for Schools
First, let’s talk about the types of federal funding available. Then we’ll dig into different types of federal reporting requirements.
What is federal school funding?
Funding for education comes from 3 sources: state, local and federal. State and local funding make up over 90% of education funding, while federal funding makes up less than 10% of the total spent on education. The U.S. Constitution declares that education is a local and statewide interest, so this funding split is baked right into the Constitution. Still, the U.S. government recognizes the national interest in raising educated citizens, so over time has increased funding support for primary and secondary education based on the area of most critical national need.
What types of federal education funding & programs are available?
- Title I: Economically Disadvantaged
- IDEA: Special Education Services
- Head Start: Early Education
- Title II: Professional Development for Educators
- Title III: English Language Learners
- Title IV: Student Support and Academic Achievement
- ESSA: Every Student Succeeds Act
- Nutrition & Safety
- E-Rate Technology
What kind of information are schools required to submit to the federal government?
Schools are required to report on students and staff, fiscal data and the schools themselves. Most of this reporting is used in the Common Core of Data (CCD), which functions as the Department of Education’s primary database for public elementary and secondary education in the U.S.
As mentioned previously, the primary purpose of this reporting is to accurately reflect the state of the school district in order to ensure adequate funding.
When do schools submit federal reports?
Due to the range of reports and agencies that collect data each year, there’s no singular date for Federal reporting for school districts. In fact, the regulations and expectations evolve from year to year.
This is why each July, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) hosts a Summer Forum and Data Conference designed to support CCD Coordinators and ensure that coordinators are up to date on trends in data and methods of data collection ahead of that reporting year.
What is ACA and why do I have to report on it?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a federal healthcare reform law. As part of the ACA, all Applicable Large Employers (ALE’s) – those employing 50 or more individuals – are required to offer health coverage to full-time employees. The IRS requires all ALE’s to report on the type of coverage offered and to whom. Employers use both 1095-C and 1094-C forms to submit the required information.
ACA reporting requirements are the same for both corporate and K-12. But it’s the complexity in K-12 working environments that sets education apart. Fluctuating hours of service, complex benefits structures and countless variations on types of employment complicate ACA compliance for school districts. To compound the issue, districts who do not confirm that their process is compliant with ACA regulations risk repeating missteps, which results in the accumulation of unnecessary fees over time.
Because of that complexity, many school districts have very particular processes for documenting employment types and benefits status/selections mapped out for business office administrators to follow year after year. When that information is stagnant in spreadsheets (or on paper), the probability and opportunity for errors increases. Staff who manage reporting find themselves spending more time validating data points than they do actually submitting the reports.
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What is the EEOC and what do I have to report on?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) collects data about employees’ gender and race/ethnicity from any organization employing more than 100 individuals. The EEOC uses reports to gather information on the population. Depending on the year, different reports are required. Keep in mind that there are different deadlines for different reports.
For more information on EEOC reporting, here’s a page that explains the what, when and how of each report.
Should we use a Basic Financial Report or a full CAFR?
All government entities are required to file financial information. Depending on the state, organizations either submit a Basic Financial Report or a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). Even though a CAFR is more time-intensive due to its comprehensive nature, it is considered a best practice for government finance. While some other reporting agencies like the Common Core of Data, are run by the NCES; the CAFR is governed by a private, non-governmental organization. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) serves as a source of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) for local and state governments.
Districts may want to consider issuing a CAFR if they are interested in accessing stronger insight into the financial health of their school district. This results in deeper granularity for fiscal planning and forecasting, making districts more prepared for regulatory changes, audits and unforeseen expenses.
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