The Importance of Accountability and Financial Management in Education
Financial Accountability: Foundation of Effective Education
According to Brimley, Vern, and Rulon Garfield, authors of Financing Education in a Climate of Change, there are many reasons that accounting and auditing are important within schools. Most of these reasons can be attributed in some way to accountability (Brimley et al., 2016). For school leaders, there are many people and groups that require and deserve accountability.
Since schools use public funds to carry out their daily duties and activities, they are accountable to taxpayers. Likewise, any groups or organizations that donate money to schools also deserve accountability. Parents, school personnel, and staff should also be privy to a school’s financial dealings. Most of all, students deserve careful financial practices in order to receive the highest standard of education possible.
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From a school leader’s perspective, financial dealings and accountability are among the most important tasks. It might seem that education and dealing with students is the most important, but finances simply cannot be extricated from that. Money allows education to occur. Teachers must be paid, supplies must be purchased, utility bills must be paid, and buildings must be maintained. These are only a few of the many costs that are present within schools. As future school leaders, we must be aware of and consider these expenses. Although education is our primary focus, we must recognize that education encompasses finances, income, and costs.
Financial Management: Nurturing Quality Education
Students cannot receive a quality education without financial input. The efficient use of resources supports student achievements (Brimley et al., 2016). Finances and auditing, when necessary, help to provide students with the things they need to be able to learn in an appropriate environment. As future school leaders, we are responsible for meeting the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium, or ISLLC. Among these standards is the need for school leaders to ensure “management of the organization, operations, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.” This clearly includes proper accounting for expenditures as they relate to money coming in. As future school leaders, it will be our responsibility to carefully document such information so that education is truly effective.
Financial responsibility also requires displaying school budgets and finances publicly in order to enhance accountability. While this practice has some ethical controversy, it also has an important purpose. Matthew Hardin, author of “Show Me Your Budget, and I Will Tell You What You Value,” states that one of these purposes is to enable “apples-to-apples” comparison. This allows per-pupil spending from one school to be compared to per-pupil spending at comparable schools in the district. Such comparison shows the true priorities of different schools and their administration. It can allow for a refocus of finances and resources if those are out of line with overall goals or financial objectives.
Accounting’s Role in Student Success
Accounting and auditing are important for school leaders because they force them to consider how much is spent on education, where that money comes from, and how it is allocated. Most importantly, it forces school leaders to ask how the allocation of educational resources is linked to student achievement. While some schools may have this clearly set forth and meet their goals consistently, other schools will benefit from accounting and auditing and the opportunity to refocus and reprioritize. The priority of school leaders should always come back to promoting the success of all students (The Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium).
While the top priority might be student success, school leaders must consider different aspects when setting financial goals or maintaining accounting practices. These include state and federal regulations, accreditation standards, employee compensation, and others. A study by Burchbuckler found that these were the top criteria for school leaders in regard to financial practices (2013). The number of students affected was also among the criteria. Students will be affected by a school’s finances and accounting both directly and indirectly.
This is the overall reason that accounting must be a top priority for school leaders. While delegating it to someone else might be appealing, this simply is not an option. To guarantee the success of each student, school leaders must be involved in every aspect of education, including accounting and auditing practices.
- Brimley, V., & Garfield, R. (2016). Financing Education in a Climate of Change. Pearson Education.
- Hardin, M. Show Me Your Budget, and I Will Tell You What You Value. Journal Title.
- Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC). Standards for School Leaders.
- Burchbuckler, A. (2013). Financial Practices in Educational Leadership: A Study of Criteria and Considerations. Educational Administration Journal.