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Avoiding a School Budget Crisis with Asset Management

avoid-school-budget-crisis-0415-banner When you have limited resources and funds and thousands of young minds to educate every day, how do you make it work? This is a question school districts all over the nation ask themselves every day. In most districts, budgets have been dwindling for years, but standardized testing isn’t going away. Students need to pass these exams to move forward, but without the appropriate materials and textbooks to study from, what are their chances of excelling at standardized exams? Slim. When you have hundreds of thousands of books to keep track of, it is a monumental task. It’s not just textbooks; other fixed assets like computers, software applications, musical instruments, cameras, and office furniture all need to be tracked and managed. The average business-issued PC holds an estimated $400 of unused software. That’s billions of dollars wasted if school districts can’t properly track what is being used among students and teachers. In 2013, an audit of a school district in Philadelphia found missing inventory valued at $196,000 from eleven schools. Even with the computerized inventory system the district used, nearly $30,000 worth of computer hardware and software were “unable to be found.”

"These findings suggest the District is not properly safeguarding and accounting for its $272.6 million furniture and equipment inventory.”

“These findings suggest the District is not properly safeguarding and accounting for its $272.6 million furniture and equipment inventory,” said City Controller Alan Butkovitz in a press release. “There appears to be a clear breakdown in the District’s procedures over its inventory, which reduced the ability to locate sampled property.” But how do you keep track of all of your equipment when students are often the ones handling them? The only solution to preventing inventory shrinkage is implementing an effective asset tracking solution that works, is up-to-date, and easy-to-use. One success story that other districts can study takes place in the Miami Public Schools district located in Northeastern Oklahoma. This 12-building district at one time had a huge problem — managing its inventory from five elementary schools, a middle and high school, administrative services, and numerous satellite buildings. Upon implementing an automated asset management system, Miami Public Schools have been able to effectively manage all its IT equipment, which is valued at over $1.6 million, from one central database. Today, the district enjoys a reduced audit time by a staggering 93 percent. But with all of the benefits, the ones who end up on top are the 3,000 young minds that attend the district’s schools each day. With an integrated approach to asset management, Miami Public Schools can now focus on making students — not tracking equipment — a priority.

How did they do it?

iStock_000006826032_FullTo get to this, we must first understand why it is so important that school systems know where their assets are and who is responsible for them at all times. When it comes to education, there is always some kind of budget crisis, and without the appropriate funds, districts need to be strategic with its resources. If educators fail at this, their school systems fail, which is not just about a business failing; it’s about the next generation failing. Not knowing where assets are turns educators’ attention to tracking and managing inventory instead of teaching young minds. Data journalist Meredith Broussard wrote a piece in The Atlantic in 2014 that outlines the importance of having adequate and up-to-date textbooks available to all students. Broussard points out that companies that create state and national exams also publish textbooks. Without access to these textbooks, which often contain answers to the exams, students can’t really study and therefore, have a low chance of scoring highly on standardized tests. When district leaders are awarded grants, their assets must always comply with the award agreement. “It is a big deal to make sure grant dollars are being spent properly. If something is purchased with special education dollars, it has to physically stay in the special education department,” says computer specialist Jason Garrison of the Miami Public Schools district. “After running a report, we would discover that the wrong numbers had been reported. We wasted a lot of time following up with teachers for missing information.” Simply put, the honor system doesn’t work and everyone was wasting a lot of time tracking down codes for audits. This confusion was especially rampant after summer break when teachers would return to their classrooms to find IT equipment and textbooks missing or in disarray.

Related Article: It’s 3pm: do you know where your school assets are?

Garrison decided that his district needed a better solution and a MobileAsset system was put in place to eliminate asset loss. Today, the entire district uses asset labels on all of its equipment. Teachers can now quickly audit each asset and the information is automatically sent to a central database. “My goal is to get every teacher in every classroom using the system,” says Garrison. “Each school will have its own printer and mobile device – connected to one central database managed district-wide.” Today, Miami Public Schools’ annual audit process, which used to be a labor-intensive 12 week affair, takes less than one week. Assets are where they are supposed to be, the district passes its audits, educators can focus their time on students, and young people are provided the instructional materials they need to succeed in the next phase of their lives. How does your school district currently track its assets? Do you think their current method is effective?