When policy changes at the local, state, or federal level it often trickles down to new data requirements for district and state technology teams to collect. With the financial transparency requirements of the Every Student Succeeds Act that meant new financial elements, granularity, and business rules – a lot of work for each state to take on with the potential for a lot of fragmentation and confusion across states both for the collection of the data and how it gets reported. A challenge that, as a community, we knew we could solve.
So, the Ed-Fi Community came together under the banner of the new community leadership and governance process and formed one of the first Community Work Groups in March of 2018. The Finance Work Group (FWG) was chartered with three specific goals. First, to provide a structure for education agencies, vendors and industry thought leaders to discuss data and technology standards for school finance data. Secondly, to establish venues for FWG members to vet and collaborate around the practices and lessons learned from their use of Ed-Fi in the financial arena. And Finally, to develop and advance ideas (proposals) for how to improve and/or expand the Ed-Fi data and technology standards to better meet the needs for managing financial data in education agencies.
The work group members shared challenges, discussed use cases, and explored solutions in both in person and virtual meetings. This hard work paved the way for the release of a new Finance API in June 2019. The specification provides a blueprint for the capture, exchange and validation of financial data for K–12 education organizations. The work group expanded on the initial finance domain with this API specification to align with state and local accounting practices, and to accommodate new transparency reporting requirements.
We know as a community that the proof is always in the implementation. To that end, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction moved to pilot this work in the 2020-2021 school year. With this project, DPI hopes to use the Finance API to combine areas of collection at DPI into a single integrated system, meet the needs of ESSA reporting requirements, increase data quality by leveraging the WISEdata Data Quality Portal, and support a better user experience for district staff. With a successful pilot, a statewide rollout is scheduled to be fully operational for school year 2021-2022.
The success of Finance Work Group marks an important milestone for the Ed-Fi community governance process. We are excited to be able to close out our first community work group with an operational API specification and technical artifacts in place to support an important community need. The Governance Advisory Team approved the wrap up on the FWG at the November 2020 meeting.
We will host a final convening of the Finance Work Group at 1pm Central on Tuesday, February 17th. This meeting is open all members of the Ed-Fi Community. The closeout meeting will provide an overview of the work and share the progress of the pilot work in Wisconsin, and celebrate job well done. The artifacts of this work will continue to be supported by the Ed-Fi Alliance and available for the Ed-Fi community.
We would like to thank our Finance Workgroup Co-Chairs, John Raub (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) and Jill Aurand (Nebraska Department of Education) for their leadership of this group. Special thanks as well to the entire Wisconsin DPI team for their willingness to pilot this work on behalf of the community.
When we launched our new governance structure, we sought to engage our community in a structured and meaningful way that highlights the benefits of interoperability where it intersects larger challenges. The Finance Work Group did just that. Closing this work group does not close the work, it opens the door for implementation and makes room for the next big challenge for our community!