Public School System Finances

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Data Collection: 2013

Confidentiality: Data collected for the Annual Survey of School System Finances are public record and are not confidential as authorized by Title 13, United States Code, Section 9.

Dates of Collection: The following are important dates in the data collection process.

2013 Annual Survey of School System Finances
January 2014 Initial mailout
February 2014 Follow-up mailout
March 2014 Begin data processing
April 2015 Data editing complete
June 2015 Released to Census Bureau Internet

Methods: The data in this survey are for all public elementary and secondary school systems centrally collected from each state. The survey cycle begins in January when states begin submitting data for the previous fiscal year. The data collection process is typically completed by April of the following year. The information included is intended to provide a complete picture of a government's financial activity. All revenue (by source), expenditure (by function and object), indebtedness, and cash and security holdings are requested.

The Census Bureau has attempted to identify all central sources for public elementary-secondary finance data. Most of these sources exist at the state government level. Many state agencies, especially state education agencies, collect financial data for the local units within their domains.

The Census Bureau has made arrangements with state government departments of education to use data from existing finance information collection systems where the data are compatible with this survey's categories. Every state department of education obtains information annually on a wide variety of financial data from elementary-secondary school systems by requiring reports or conducting surveys. The Census Bureau is able to gain access to this information through cooperative agreements with each state as summarized below:

  1. Data compiled or reformatted by Census Bureau staff from state education agency electronic data files (21 states).
  2. Data reformatted by state education agency staff into survey categories before electronically transmitting or mailing data to the Census Bureau (29 states and DC).

A single office or database in the departments of education did not always have all of the information needed for this survey. In these instances, other sources – most often different state offices – supplied information to supplement the basic data. The most common types of data needing supplementation were school lunch finances, indebtedness, cash and security holdings, and capital fund transactions.

The collection arrangements have a number of distinct advantages. First, because the Census Bureau is able to use data from state government data systems, the response burden on local school system administrators is lessened. Second, the close relationship between local school systems and state departments of education minimizes any nonresponse.

Financial data for school systems were summed to create state aggregates. Census Bureau staff reviewed the state aggregates for consistency with prior year information. The state aggregates were also compared with the financial data collected in the National Public Education Financial Survey by the NCES and state totals released by state education agencies. During the review of state aggregates, Census Bureau technical staff requested assistance from state officials and the NCES to resolve differences. Most of these differences involved the inclusion of state payments on behalf of local education agencies in state education agency and the NCES totals. The state education agencies and the NCES furnished information about these payments that enabled the Census Bureau to provide state source revenue and current spending categories shown in Tables 1 through 8, Tables 11 through 18, and Table 20 of the Census Bureau's annual report.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Elementary–Secondary Education Finance Data | 1 (800) 622-6193| |  Last Revised: June 02, 2015