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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 14 June 2006

Oregonians can learn how their tax dollars to support K-12 public schools are used by visiting a Web site that shows how their local school district spends money.

They can compare their district's spending to other districts and the state average — all without having to decipher complicated spreadsheets.

Called Open Book$, the site, at www.openbooksproject.org, tracks the spending of each of Oregon's 198 school districts in five categories and shows that spending in simple charts. Visitors also can compare their local district to others of similar size, access achievement data and learn about their local district's spending patterns.

The Web site was created by the Chalkboard Project, in partnership with the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, Citizens for Oregon's Future, Oregon School Boards Association, Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Education Association.

Open Book$ grew out of repeated requests from Oregonians to more clearly understand how school districts spend their money.

"Over the course of the past two years, we've connected with more than 50,000 Oregonians. Again and again, we heard how hard it is for average citizens to track school spending and really understand where their tax dollars are going," said Sue Hildick, president of the Chalkboard Project.

"We're very pleased to be able to introduce this new tool in its final public demonstration phase that provides more facts about school district spending to the owners of our schools — all Oregonians," she added.

"We want Oregonians to know the facts about school spending because we think the facts clearly show that schools do a good job of prioritizing and maximizing resources. A really high percentage of our dollars is spent on teaching, learning and services for kids," said Kent Hunsaker, executive director of the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators.

Open Book$ tracks spending from the 2004-2005 school year — the most recent data available — in five categories: teaching and student resources; buses, buildings and food; business services and technology; principal's office; and central administration. All expenditures are coded in the same way for each district. The data were submitted by each district to the Oregon Department of Education, which audited the numbers for accuracy.

The Confederation of Oregon School Administrators and its school superintendents group, the Oregon Association of School Executives, began working with the Oregon Department of Education two years ago to analyze and compare school district spending. The goal was to make school spending easier to understand, in part by gaining greater consistency in how spending is reported from district to district.

For more information about Chalkboard and to learn how to get involved, call 877-9687-512 (YOUR-K12) or visit www.chalkboardproject.org.

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