Decentralized Accounting in Schools – The Carpenter’s Dilemma

April 29, 2011 at 11:43 AM Leave a comment

To paraphrase an old saying…If the Principal’s whole budget is a personnel budget…every problem looks like a person.

Asset-based management depends on knowing the true value of all of one’s inputs. Every school has bricks and mortar, people, fixtures, equipment, and supplies. It also depends on intangibles in the form of community partners, public and private. It is not the habit of a government service such as education to apply market principles to the analysis of its enterprise, its investments and its returns. However, we may well benefit from borrowing the tools of the market to know where we stand for strategic planning purposes.

In addition to taking an inventory of assets, each school would benefit from understanding all the fully allocated costs it incurs, not just the staffing costs. This would be a stepping stone to decentralized accounting, which would send more resources to the schools along with more discretion in spending and accountability for results. We have a genuine need to know where the money is spent. Teachers must demonstrate their effectiveness, but so must the many and varied offices and materials that comprise district overhead. Would any good manager intentionally pay for all of their goods and services at the current cost?

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Entry filed under: Financial data, School Leadership.

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