One of the most important roles of any school board is to establish a vision for the community that encompasses charter quality, high academic results, and the ability to know the demographics of their students and understand their strengths and weaknesses. School board members play an essential role in the big picture and are required to be trained, actively engaged, and have the enormous responsibility of hiring school leaders in the district such as the Superintendent and overseeing their performance. In addition to these tasks, school boards also have a fiduciary responsibility to make good-faith business decisions that put the best interests of your charter school in alignment with its mission and overall academic and financial goals.
But for school boards to make sound decisions, they need meaningful, easy to read, reliable information and financial reports. As you know, not all board members have a solid background in accounting or finance, so we must present reports in such a way than anyone (regardless of their background) can pick up a report, and with minimal explanation, be able to follow it and feel confident of their understanding.
So, where do we begin with Board Reporting? Let’s start with a basic trend analysis of some fundamental components such as:
- Student Enrollment
- Average Daily Attendance
- This information can be found on PEIMS reports
- PEIMS reports can also give you special population student counts such as
- Career and Technology
- Special Education
- State Compensatory eligible students (At-risk population)
- Adopted Budget for all funds required to be approved by the Board of Trustees
- Monthly Revenue
- Monthly Expenditures
- Budget to Actual Analysis
These are just a few basic reports to get you started on the essentials and with a little training and month to month experience you can promote your board to reading more advanced reports such as:
- Statement of Net Assets
- # of Days of cash on hand
- Compliance related reports such as program intent monitoring and spending requirements
- Federal program reports, etc.
Impact Upon Charter FIRST Rating
Many of the reports mentioned have a direct impact on your Charter FIRST rating. For example, a new indicator this year that will impact your 2020-21 rating (is based on the 2019-20 school year) is Indicator # 16 which asks: Was the charter school’s actual average daily attendance (ADA) within 10 percent of the charter school’s annual estimated ADA? This is a yes or no answer. If you answer yes, you get 5 points, if you answer no, you get zero points.
At Charter School Success, we monitor (on a monthly basis) several of your Charter FIRST indicators. See below for an example report of the Average Daily Attendance: the green line indicates the budgeted percentage rate of attendance. You can see when this charter school fell above or below the mark.
Another indicator that should be monitored is your charter school’s Total Net Assets. This is defined as the total assets of your charter school, minus its total liabilities. Net assets are subdivided into unrestricted and restricted. An example of restricted net assets includes federal funds and some private grants awarded for specific expenditures. The following chart is an example of a trend in how Net Assets are monitored to meet Charter FIRST requirements.
Additional notes to this indicator are stated below:
(If the charter school’s change of students in membership over 5 years was 7 percent or more, then the charter school passes this indicator). (New charter schools that have a negative net asset balance will pass this indicator if they have an average of 7 percent growth in students year over year until it completes its fifth year of operations. After the fifth year of operations, the calculation changes to the 7 percent increase in 5 years). (If the charter school passes indicator 5 based only on the charter school’s 7 percent or more increase in students in membership, the maximum points and highest rating that the charter school may receive is 79 points, C = Meets Standard Achievement.)
Your School Board members should be meeting regularly with key employees to look ahead and address issues that may be on the horizon such as revenue shortfalls or major drops in student enrollment. It’s important to give your board meaningful reports and not just stand-alone raw data that’s difficult to analyze because there is nothing to compare it to.
Charter School Success offers courses for Board Members to satisfy TEA-required training. Visit our website for details.
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Contact one of our Finance experts to learn more about Board Reporting!