Counties to State: Counties Should Have Access to New School Financial Reporting Systems

Counties need access to new forthcoming reporting and budgeting systems for public education spending to fulfill their fiduciary duties as funding authorities and partners in school success.
Maryland’s landmark education reform law, The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (The Blueprint), and its phase-in implementation have an advanced interest in greater transparency and reporting of sources, uses, and outcomes from education investments. Investments from county governments, the State, and the federal government are often bulk-reported as single or categorical streams of school expenditures, without any clear delineation on source or utilization of the funds. Further complicating the issue was a large influx of federal COVID-19 relief and rescue funding for that has compounded the concern of “black box” spending by local school districts without public clarity.

A statutory directive for additional reporting, a series of inputs to the Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB), and a pending new budget-tracking software platform for school systems present current or near-term opportunities to instill clarity and accountability in school spending.

These new reporting and budgeting procedures and systems need to ensure that county decision-makers have access to these tools and information to fulfill their fiduciary duties as funding authorities and partners in school success. Access to this data is so important to counties that MACo’s Legislative Committee adopted it as one if its four legislative initiatives for the 2023 legislative session.

Pursuing that priority, MACo sent a letter to State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury and to AIB Chair Ike Leggett requesting access to future financial reporting data as local education agencies expand and deepen reporting as dictated by The Blueprint and the State Department of Education.

That letter reads:

These new reporting requirements should ensure that county decision-makers have access to these tools and information to fulfill their fiduciary duties as funding authorities and partners in school success. Access to this data is so important to counties that MACo’s Legislative Committee adopted it as one if its four legislative initiatives for the 2023 legislative session.

As such, counties are writing to request full access to these new reports, reporting platforms, and subsequent data. Specifically, we seek affirmation – both in official response to this letter and as warranted in regulatory language – that county governing bodies will systematically be granted such access in the same capacity and at the same time as the State.

This is especially critical as we ramp up Blueprint implementation and investment so that we, as local funding authorities, can make informed and responsible budgetary decisions.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for updates on this issue and others.

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