Resources for Aspiring School Business Leaders

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Eureka. Sacramento state capitol building

Continuing my series for future school business leaders, I offer short commentaries on some of the most useful technical and policy resources for California school business aspirants.  In no particular order, here they are:

1.  School Services of California.  This is a subscription service.  If you are in California it is likely that your school district is a client.  If so, as an employee of the district you can sign up to view their timely, useful and detailed articles.  Their top notch resources in the “Tools and Resources” area of their web site are available without having to log in. Have a question? Go to “Ask SSC.”  An SSC team member will respond quickly (for clients only).

SSC is the premier business, financial, management, and advocacy resource for educational agencies in California. SSC provides information services, legislative or governmental advocacy, financial and business consulting, executive search, and innovative workshops and training that are designed to help in solving problems and improving student performance. [SSC web site]

2. The Legislative Analyst .  The legislative analyst’s office is a non-partisan advisor to the legislature on the implications of proposed legislation.  Read its analyses of state budget proposals.

It is known for its fiscal and programmatic expertise and nonpartisan analyses of the state budget. The office serves as the  “eyes and ears” for the Legislature to ensure that the executive branch is implementing legislative policy in a cost efficient and effective manner. [LAO web site]

3.  PPIC (Public Policy Institute of California) .  The PPIC publishes scholarly research into various areas, including K-12 education.  Some of these studies are book length.  My advice is to read most of these reports (perhaps one every couple of weeks for the next year).  If you really don’t have the time, read the executive summaries.  A true leader in education understands the wider policy issues that affect their sector.

Our mission is to inform and improve public policy in California through independent, objective, nonpartisan research on major social, economic, and political issues.  [PPIC web site]

4.  FCMAT (Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team).  This organization’s name implies that it deals only with districts in crisis.  Look past that to the “Management Assistance” part. Yes, it provides assistance to struggling districts, but also provides workshops and excellent publications of interest to all.  One of the most downloaded is the Associated Student Body Manual.

FCMAT was established by the state (and is funded by the state) to help local educational agencies fulfill their financial and management responsibilities by providing fiscal advice, management assistance, training and other school business services. [FCMAT web site, paraphrased]

5.  The Department of Education website.  The website provides a wealth of fiscal and program information for schools.  It is the place to go for the California Schools Accounting Manual and the state financial reporting software.  It provides details about every state grant and its spending rules.  And much, much more.  The most used tabs for school business professionals are “Finance & Grants” and “Data & Statistics.”  Every school business staff member needs to be thoroughly familiar with it and will likely go there often.

6.  Edsource. Edsource is K-12 education reporting on steroids.  Revamped recently, it has added first rate journalists to its staff.  It publishes latest news and commentary, and has articles explaining the basics of California education funding.  Its mission is to inform the general public.  School district officials will find heaps of useful information there as well.

EdSource believes that access to a quality education is an important right of all children. We further believe that an informed, involved public is necessary to strengthen California’s schools for the benefit of the state’s children as well as civic life in California and its economy. [Edsource web site]

7.  CASBO (California Association of School Business Officials).  CASBO is a membership organization for all non-teaching positions in school districts.  It is organized into regional sections which conduct workshops and job-alike meetings.  The state-wide organization sponsors the annual conference which brings together the regional sections, many of whom will present training sessions.  These are augmented by sessions put on by “partners”, such as law firms, accounting firms, and others who do business with districts.  There is a huge “Expo” at each annual conference where hundreds of vendors show off their wares and services.  While the annual conference has lots of fun events, the workshops are mostly excellent.  It provides a great opportunity to network.

CASBO issues news bulletins that contains information you might also obtain from School Services or Edsource.

8.  Edjoin.  Looking for a job in education?  This premier web site has expanded nationwide, so it is not just for California.

9.  The Education Code.  Whenever you need clarification, go back to the source.  When in doubt, look up the Education Code and any other applicable codes (e.g. Government Code).  My strategy has always been to read the code and answer my own question.  Then I’ll use a free resource (such as School Services) and get their opinion.  If there are any lingering doubts I will ask our attorney. This dramatically cuts down on legal bills.

10.  California Code of Regulations.  See above.  Title 5 of the CCR deals with Education.

11.  The Sacramento Bee.  Like many US state capitals, Sacramento is a small town.  So you might not expect its local newspaper to account for much.  However, the Bee takes its role at the state capital’s newspaper seriously.  You’ll find excellent reporting and commentaries there.  You can sign up to receive their “Capitol Alert” emails.

12.  Google Alerts  I have several Google alerts set up.  “Local Control Funding Formula” is one.  “School business finance” is another.  I also have one for my own school district.  Find out what others are saying about you.

13.  Your county office of education’s district business advisory section

14.  Your school district’s external audit firm

15.  Your internal auditor (if any)

16.  Your mentor.  Find one.

17.  Your job-alikes at other districts.  Develop a network.

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