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ERIC Number: ED561102
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014-Jun
Pages: 32
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
The New Education CFO: From Scorekeeper to Strategic Leader
Hovey, Don; Boser, Ulrich
Center for American Progress
Traditionally, district and corporate leaders regarded chief financial officers, or CFOs, as chief accountants. They were the individuals tasked with ensuring financial compliance, settling the books, creating reports, and cutting costs. The CFO was inherently risk averse and internally focused; he or she was there to backstop the ambitious plans of others. Strategic CFOs provide chief executive officers and their leadership teams with actionable data and make explicit the choices and tradeoffs required in tight budgetary times. They partner with other executives to look at a company's cost structure and investments across the board and help make sure that the budget reflects an organization's priorities. Strategic CFOs understand the "why" behind financial decisions, can effectively communicate that to the public, and focus on building sustainability. Put simply, today's CFOs look not just backward but forward as well. The challenges facing our nation's school systems demand a similar transformation in financial leadership. New, higher standards and teacher-evaluation systems increase schools' accountability for significant improvement in student outcomes at a time when schools face tightening budgets. Furthermore, students are arriving at school with greater needs than ever before, and districts must prepare them for the increased demands of college and careers in the 21st century. This report presents findings from the author's research, including survey responses, and offers recommendations on how best to develop the next generation of strategic CFOs. Among the findings: (1) School CFOs are not always a key part of district management culture; and (2) CFOs lack the time and staffing to do more in-depth analyses or planning or to quantify the impact of inflexible structures, which makes strategic resource use difficult. Based on these findings, specific recommendations include: (1) Create induction and other training programs for CFOs; (2) Build networks for continuous learning and mutual support for CFOs; (3) Increase transparency and establish decision-support dashboards; and (4) Implement programs that support increased fiscal equity and flexibility. There are indeed deep challenges to the evolution of the strategic education CFO--challenges that require states, districts, governors, advocacy organizations, and stakeholders to all play a role. It is abundantly clear that business as usual cannot continue. The time to transform how to approach the district budgeting process is now.
Center for American Progress. 1333 H Street NW 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 202-682-1611; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Center for American Progress; Education Resource Strategies