By Carlos Ruiz, Owner/Operator of HT Metals and Tanque Verde Unified School District Board President

With a state investment as critical as the one we make in public education, we need to know where and how our monies are allocated—at both the macro- and the micro-levels. This means having a clear picture of the local, state, and federal dollars directed to individual school sites, not just the broader district level. The benefits of making this information accessible are fairly obvious— it’s how we measure if and how our money is working for us when it comes to educating our kids. It also enables those who manage resources to make strategic decisions that ultimately drive better student outcomes.

Arizona already requires disclosure of school-level financial data, but additional clarity is needed to ensure we have a clear picture of dollars made available to individual schools. Fortunately, work is underway at the legislature to bring that clarity for the benefit of our students. I’m strongly supportive of this effort, which resonates with me as both a business owner and school board president of Tanque Verde Unified School District.

I couldn’t run my material distribution business, HT Metals, without considering if my investments in particular areas were achieving the right results. At work, if I spend money somewhere and I don’t see the outcome I planned for, I can make immediate changes to my business practices. Our schools should have this same agility.

Continuous evaluation allows for continuous improvement and this is vital in both business and the education of Arizona students.

Clearly, school financing is complicated, and managing school budgets will have challenges that are unique. One similarity to a private business is the need to spend money wisely, and to measure outcomes against the financial decisions that are made.

In my role as school board president, it is important to me that our leadership team is able to see where money is spent in their classrooms and how this measures up to their goals. If they see a disconnect between investment and results, they can be empowered to try something new to get a better outcome.

We are seeing this in action now, as Tanque Verde Unified School District is currently one of four school districts participating in a pilot program in partnership with Allovue that can help inform Arizona’s future practices around school-based budgeting.

State finances are limited, and most would agree transparency and clarity are key — particularly as they relate to our mission critical investment in public education. National research shows that school-based budgeting empowers principals and results in improved outcomes for students.

So, while transparency is nice, we get a lot more than just sunlight with school-based budgeting. We get principals armed with knowledge to make smart decisions and students benefiting in higher achievement. I’m pleased to see Arizona dusting off and strengthening the school-based budgeting requirement established under Prop 301 to provide needed clarity and simplicity. I believe we’ll see benefits for our kids and our school leaders as a result.