School Finance Officers Required to Meet Higher Standards

Kentucky_State_Capitol

Kittugwiki (via Wikimedia Commons)

Under a new measure, school finance officers in Kentucky will have to meet certain requirements to keep their jobs.

House Bill 154 passed late Tuesday night, on the last day of the legislative session, and is on its way to the governor for his signature.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting wrote about the issue last week and examined a state auditor’s report that found those in charge of cash, investments and financial management of multi-million dollar school budgets often lacked the education and training to handle the job. And that leaves school districts at risk for waste, fraud and abuse, state officials said.

This legislation — which will likely be signed by the governor — mandates that all school finance officers will have to be certified by the Kentucky Department of Education and receive annual training.

“We tend to live in a world where if something goes wrong we fix it,” said Rep. Mike Denham, D-Maysville. “And what I’m hoping is with 154 it will keep us from allowing something to go wrong.”

The auditor’s report revealed that financial officer problems were statewide:

  • In more than 20 percent of districts, finance officers don’t have a bachelor’s degree in any subject at all.

  • Their prior work experience varies widely. Of Kentucky’s 173 school districts, 33 have finance officers who are former teachers, principals or superintendents. Of those, 18 have no previous financial or accounting experience or education.

  • Less than half reported obtaining a finance-related certification.

See the data for financial officers in districts across the state:

What school finance officer certification will look like hasn’t yet been determined.

Hiren Desai, associate commissioner for administration and support at the Kentucky Department of Education, said it could mean all finance officers would be required to obtain a bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting. It might include the ability to grandfather someone in who is still working on his or her degree, he said.

A working group of finance experts at KDE will develop a proposal and submit it to the Kentucky Board of Education for approval. There will be plenty of time for public comment, Desai said, though he doesn’t expect the certification requirements to be final until at least January, possibly spring 2015.

“Long term, we’re very happy because it helps our finance officers,” he said. “It gives them credibility, and it really improves the whole financial stability of the education system, which is important because we invest over $4 billion a year in education at the state level.”

Reporter Kristina Goetz can be reached at kgoetz@kycir.org or (502) 814.6546.

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