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Program Cost Analysis

School Districts are encountering growing demands by school board members, school administrators, legislators, special interest groups and the public, to provide information that demonstrates effective cost management and provides transparency and accountability. These demands go beyond the reporting capabilities of their traditional financial systems using the basic classifications of fund, function and object. They require full cost accounting procedures that determine the cost of program services offered by School Districts and establish a comparison base to measure improvements and changes.

The Department of Education (NECS) publication of Financial Accounting for Local and State school systems details out the need and an approach for full program costing. (To read more about the approach, see charter 7 of the publication at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2004/h2r2/)

A Solution with Endless Cost Analysis Capabilities

Working with several Texas school districts, MindSphere Technology Group has developed a "Program Cost Analysis" (PCA) software that brings a new perspective in understanding District’s costs. The software uses the activity based costing approach, an accounting method suggested by the Department of Education as referenced in the publication above. This method is widely used in the private sector to identify the cost of products and services. It provides an insight to the direct and indirect costs for delivering specific educational services down to a level of a single seat of a class within a campus. The following illustrates examples of cost elements for direct and indirect costs.

Examples of Cost Elements Applied to Class Sections
  Payroll Non Payroll
Direct Instructional time and planning time Specific supplies or equipment
Indirect

Campus support - principal, librarian, custodian, extra support duties
District support - business office personnel

Campus – supplies, textbooks
District – supplies, maintenance, professional services for tax collector and legal expenses

Once the full cost is determined at the class section level for both budgeted and actual expenditures, it can then be aggregated to many different reporting levels (e.g., course, subject, program, school years, fund, object, organization, program intent). Additional cost data such as average cost per seat and direct-to-indirect cost ratio are also be derived. Standard costing (based on average daily and hourly rate) is also available for comparison.

Based on your district's cost objectives, PCA can provide you with endless capabilities to analyze, compare, and report cost of services at different levels. Using this powerful software, the district can apply better cost containment measures and anticipate future costs. Understanding how expenditures are allocated to your educational services is generally the first step in developing plans to improve your organization’s cost effectiveness.

Program Cost Analysis enables you to:

  • Establish the "true cost" of every class or instructional program (e.g. Foreign Language) for all campuses, based on the campus where the teaching services are delivered.
  • Provide for an objective cost approach to justifying the continuation or elimination of a program or class.
  • Analyze in detail the direct and indirect costs associated with any class, subject or program.
  • Compare the cost of classes and programs across campuses or across school years for trend analysis.
  • Perform budget and actual analysis across campuses, programs and/or school years.
  • Evaluate class sizes and compare class utilization and costs across campuses.
  • Evaluate the utilization of personnel based on master schedule information to provide in-depth reporting of personnel that are under and over utilized.
  • Compare the utilization of support personnel across campuses.
  • Evaluate personnel compensation and strengthen the management of stipends and extra pay.
  • Analyze the district budget by fund, function, object, organization, program intent or by any way your district uses the accounting string.
  • Determine cost allocation and reporting rules that fit the specific situations of your district.
  • Integrate data from personnel, payroll, financial and scheduling systems and identify exceptions for data quality improvements.
  • Automatically load data from your source systems and maintain data for different key dates (e.g. PEIMS submission dates, end of semester) within a school year and across school years.

Analysis and Reporting

MindSphere’s K-12 Solution includes the following modules that may be configured to meet your specific needs for analysis, reporting and monitoring.

PCA comes with a customizable user-friendly web based portal (Information Center). The Information Center contains many features that are designed to give the user rapid access to a unified and consistent view of the business data for analysis and reporting. Key features of the Information Center are:

Interactive Analysis
A powerful and intuitive analysis component with rich data-navigation features that provides the user with the flexibility to select, filter and group data. User may select to display information through a chart, which contain rich charting capabilities allowing the user to select chart types, size/sort/rank results, and drill-down on any portion of the chart to display more detail information. User may also display information through a table view with the ability to sort, drill-down and interactively change reporting data elements from the column header.

Standard Reports
A library of over 100 pre-defined reports templates are available in Adobe PDF format. Reports are grouped by data domains for easy reference and viewing. These reports can be viewed with a single mouse "click" or can be easily modified by the user to include/exclude data through a simplified data selection screen.

Query Builder
A user-friendly data access and reporting feature that enables a non-technical user to define and create report queries on an ad-hoc basis. It supports up to 16 columns and 3 levels of data groupings. Queries may also be saved for future viewing or may be shared with other users or a group of users defined to a role. The results of a query may also be formatted with user-defined headings and printed in an Adobe PDF format.

Alerts
An automatic notification feature that lets you know when events or thresholds arise. Alerts proactively monitor data sources, based on user-defined parameters, and deliver essential easy to understand information.

For more information or to schedule an on-site product demonstration
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