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Measuring and managing costs

The United States spends an average of about $10,000 per student per year on K-12 education. But for too many education leaders and decision-makers, visibility into the costs of specific services our education system delivers to students is nonexistent. This is because education accounting and reporting typically are done across large programs and broad categories such as instruction or instructional support. These accounting practices are insufficient for tracking, benchmarking, and analyzing the costs of various services individually or compared with one another – all of which are essential to making decisions that lead to better outcomes and productivity.

A better approach to accounting for these purposes is cost accounting, which focuses on recording, tracking, and reporting costs associated with specific functions or services. Cost accounting can provide a complete picture of actual costs today and also serve as the basis for projecting costs in the future. As part of a commitment to continuous improvement, states and districts should adopt common cost accounting standards for benchmarking and analyzing costs.

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