In 2017, Afton worked with the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to improve the agency’s process to allocate Title I Part A funding to its 400+ LEAs, and Afton shared its learning here. Since this initiative, Afton’s team has delved into federal funding allocation processes and identified common challenges in multiple states across over a dozen federal funds.
These challenges included:
- It’s time-consuming: Many teams have developed comprehensive allocation processes, but these processes take significant time (and time that could be spent supporting LEAs) and require multiple iterations
- There are data challenges: Data challenges are persistent, including accuracy of LEA reported data, timeliness of data availability, and consistency of data inputs
- There have been audit findings: States have received multiple audit findings regarding federal funding allocations
- No consistent structure or format: In our discussions, it has become clear that tools, processes and methodologies had been developed over the course of many years and multiple leaders, resulting in varied approaches to allocating funds. Turnover compounds these issues when adequate training time and materials are unavailable.
Through a recent engagement, Afton built a set of allocation templates and recommended processes for federal funds, aiming to resolve or mitigate these concerns. The goal was to create templates that are consistent, accurate, efficient, and as error-proofed as possible, while also providing organizational recommendations to improve overall process effectiveness.
Based on this work, and interviews with several other state agencies, Afton identified areas of opportunity and specific organizational recommendations for federal allocation processes for states grappling with the challenges of federal funding allocations to LEAs:
- Roles and Responsibilities
- If not already doing so, the Finance team should be involved in, and ideally lead, federal allocations, working closely with the Program and Information Technology teams, to ensure proper controls over funding
- Ensure proper skill sets of responsible personnel
- Ensure review and approval processes are in place
- Align timelines for all federal funding as much as possible, to simplify for the agency and LEAs
- Create an “Allocations Calendar” shared with Program teams and LEAs for clarity
- Utilize calendar view to identify further areas to streamline activities
- Data Processes
- In our reviews, Afton has discovered numerous opportunities to streamline data processes. If this is the case with your agency, form a working group to understand inconsistencies in data sources and calculation methodologies, and determine opportunities for streamlining (and leveraging the same data sets wherever possible!)
- Align on future roles and responsibilities for data collection and metric calculation
- Quality Control
- Have a common definition of what requires a formal state policy, and apply uniformly across all federal funds
- Ensure consistency in policy documentation
- Write standard operating procedures (“SOPs”) for all allocation processes
- Require regular policy and SOP reviews
- Incorporate review and verification process for all federal fund allocation templates
- Align on common communications protocols for all federal funds
- Provide transparency in how and why federal funds are allocated
- Ensure timely and accurate communications, aligned with the Allocations calendar
If your state agency is interested in learning more about improving your federal funding allocation processes, please reach out to Afton at firstname.lastname@example.org.