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organizational complexity

The value of a comprehensive information system also becomes evident when examining the distribution of resources (fiscal equity) and the use of those resources (productivity)—two of the major foci of school financial accounting information. Since 1971 (Serrano v. Priest, 487 P.2d 1241 [1971]), legal challenges to state school finance systems have required states to revise funding formulas to better ensure equitable funding among school districts, and those same challenges have forced states to attempt to define what constitutes an adequate education. The assumption that a more equal distribution of resources will lead to increased equity in the uses of finite resources continues to be debated—in the courts, in the media, and among the general public.1 School financial accounting systems are an important source of information on the costs of an equitable and adequate education in each school district. Recently, the emphasis on accountability has turned the spotlight on school achievement, with the focus on how much it costs to achieve a minimally acceptable level of educational performance for all students. The clear trend is to understand fiscal and programmatic data in terms of the particular needs of specific groups, such as students with disabilities, students with limited proficiency in English, and students from economically disadvantaged families (Reschovsky and Imazeki 1997, p. 144). Although conceptually it is convenient to maintain a separate financial system with well-defined elements, most of the operational and policy questions that need to be answered rely heavily on data that cross into areas other than finance. Thus, definitions of school financial data must align with other aspects of the education information system. An aligned and comprehensive education information system should provide the data necessary to answer the following key questions: • How much is spent on education? • Who pays for education? • How are funds allocated? • How are educational resources linked to student achievement? To answer these questions, an education information system requires more than a finance component; it also requires a student records system, a staff records system, a property system, a curriculum or program component, and a community services component. Instructional management systems can be linked to student records systems to provide policymakers with greater analytical capability to make appropriate, cost-effective, and timely decisions.