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Open Book$ Icons & Definitions

Teaching and Student Resources

Teachers, instructional assistants, special education, speech pathologists, attendance officers, school nurses, library services, counseling, community services, supplies, textbooks and equipment.

Principal's Office

Principals, vice-principals, secretaries, and the supplies and equipment they use to perform their jobs.

Buses, Buildings and Food

Student transportation, building maintenance, heat, light, custodians, cafeteria.

Business Services and Technology

Information technology, personnel, curriculum research and evaluation, printing educational materials.

Central Administration

Staff salaries, benefits and supplies in the superintendent's office, or for other education leaders not located at specific schools.

FAQ's

Q: Where does the data used on the Open Book$ web site come from?

A: The data comes directly from the Database Initiative (DBI), which contains the annual audited data that districts provide yearly to the Oregon Department of Education.

Q: Why aren't you using Oregon Department of Education's (ODE) spending categories?

A: While we are using the same spending data that ODE collects from school districts in their Database Initiative, we have defined our five categories of spending differently. We have organized our categories in such a manner as to give the user the most straightforward and simple approach possible to matching dollars with the services being provided. For example, our "central administration" category includes not just administrators in the superintendent's office but also administrators from the remaining 4 categories so the user can get a sense of the total cost of all administrators working outside of an actual school in the district. We think this provides a more logical and direct approach to tracking spending. We worked with a coalition of partners–including ODE, teachers, administrators and consumer advocates–to agree on the five categories presented in OpenBook$.

Q: Why are your figures different than what you see on the ODE web site?

A: Open Book$' definition of spending is exactly the same as the definition on ODE's website that is labeled "Spending in All Operating Funds" or "Operating Expenditures". The only difference between Open Book$ and ODE is the way total operating spending is broken down into categories. ODE uses four categories called "Direct Classroom", "Classroom Support", "Building Support", and "Central Support". Open Book$, in an effort to provide information that is easier to understand, uses five categories (Teaching and Student Resources, etc.) Since the data used by Open Book$ and ODE is exactly the same, total spending reported in both places will be exactly the same – it is simply broken down in different ways.

Q: How did you create the five Open Book$ categories?

A: We organized our categories in such a manner as to give the user the most straightforward and simple approach possible to matching dollars with the services being provided. By working closely with stakeholder partners, and using the Database Initiative and NCES categories as reference points, everyone was able to embrace one way of reporting figures.

Q: How often will the Open Book$ data be updated?

A: The site will be updated every year when ODE has finalized each district's audited data. Likely timeframe for the next update will be summer of 2008 with the 2006/2007 school year data.

Q: Why are central administration costs below the statewide average in the largest districts - Portland, Salem, Beaverton for example - and what is included in this category?

A: Central administration for OpenBook$ includes staff salaries in the superintendent's office or for other education leaders not located at specific schools. Put simply, this category includes only administrators. We would expect the percentages to be lower in the larger districts because the costs for central administration are spread across an overall larger district budget.

Q: Why does Open Book$ report central administration costs differently than what may be reported elsewhere?

A:Open Book$ uses its own set of definitions to give the most accurate look at administrative costs. In others' cost reporting, "central administration" might exclude the costs of some administrative staff, such as those overseeing finances and human resources. Our definition of "central administration," however, includes staff salaries of everyone who works in the superintendent's office, and all other district education leaders who aren't based in a school.

Q: How did you decide which districts to compare in the “District Comparison” section of the web site?

A: Each of the districts are compared by like student size, and are considered "peers" to the school district selected. Users can choose up to two districts for a side-by-side spending comparison.

Q: Why can’t users choose to compare their district to ANY other district in the state?

A: For this initial version of Open Book$, we felt the comparison tool would be of most use among districts of similar size. Users can still view the data from all districts by doing individual searches – they just can’t compare all of them side by side.

Q: Does it cost the district or citizens any money to use Open Book$?

A: No. OpenBook$ is a free service, sponsored by the Chalkboard Project, for anyone to use.

Q: Was Open Book$ created in response to the 65% initiative?

A: Open Book$ was not conceived as a response to 65%, the potential initiative that would direct school districts to spend 65% of dollars in the “classroom.” We've been working on this web site for months, and the so-called “65% solution” came up in Oregon long after we were underway.

Q: Why is the "teaching and student resources" number higher than the "instruction" number that National Center Education Statistics uses and that is reflected in the "65%" initiative?

A: One of the difficulties in explaining and comparing school district spending on “classroom” activities is that there are different and legitimate ways to categorize much of that spending. For example, the Open Book$ "teaching and student resources" figure includes people and services such as speech pathologists, nurses, truant officers, counselors, and librarians – people who work directly with students. NCES uses vague terminology like 'student support' to describe these services, and does not consider them “classroom” expenditures. Backers of the Oregon 65% initiative rely heavily on NCES definitions of what makes up “classroom” expenditures (although Oregon petitioners do include librarians – but not other support staff – in their “classroom” definition). We think it makes more sense to combine these services – which are not 'administrative' and also differ from 'infrastructure' services like transportation, building maintenance and cafeteria - with the NCES 'instruction' categories.

Q: Standards & Poors recently launched the “School Matters” web site, which has a similar purpose as “Open Book$”. Why didn’t Oregon just adopt its model?

A: We thought a local program would be the best approach for Oregon. A more “home grown” approach allows us to work with districts and citizens and provides Oregon with greater control and an ability to be fluid in its creation. By working closely with stakeholder partners, everyone was able to embrace one way of reporting figures. Open Book$ also provides more recent financial data due to our partnership with ODE.

Q: How come the percentages don’t always equal an even 100%? Sometimes it’s 101.1%, and other times it’s 99.1%?

A: As part of the Open Book$ development process, we carefully considered decisions about rounding percentage figures.  To ensure that all percentages sum to exactly 100% we would have to show figures to several decimal places.  As Open Book$ is designed to be a user-friendly tool for the general public, we didn’t want to complicate the figures by making them too long, so in some cases, due to rounding, percentages may not total exactly 100%.  The first phase of Open Book$ rounded all percentages to whole numbers, but the current version rounds percentages to tenths.  This change reflects user feedback that displaying tenths increases accuracy without decreasing usability.

Q: Do the expenditures for buildings in the "Buses, Buildings, and Food" include both classroom and administrative buildings?

A: Yes.

Q: Are the costs for administrative employees who have teaching certificates included in the "Teaching and Student Resources" category?

A: No. Anyone who performs an administrative function in a district - regardless of whether he or she has a teaching certificate - is included in one of the administrative budget categories.

Q: Are all employees in a school district office included in the "Central Administration" category?

A: Not necessarily. We have allocated costs based on the function employees perform. For example, a secretary in the district office who works on transportation issues will be counted in the "Buses, Buildings, and Food" category, or an accountant in the central office will be included in the "Business Services and Technology" category.

Q: Why did you create Open Book$?

A: Chalkboard's extensive public opinion research has shown that most Oregonians don't know how schools spend money, and that they'd like to know more about where their education dollars go. For example, in one recent survey, 65% of respondents told us having school budget information they could easily compare and contrast would increase their confidence in Oregon schools. Open Book$ is a great start at giving Oregonians some basic facts about school spending.