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Compare District Finances Help

Last updated November 15, 2012


    This report allows you to compare the financial reports of school districts from the fiscal year 2003-04 to the most current year for which SACS financial data is available. The report also includes information on ADA, enrollment, and teachers.

    This "Compare Districts" function offers three types of comparisons:

    The "Districts Like This" tab helps you find districts "like" yours or any selected district based on 25 categories for comparison.
    The "Highest/Lowest" tab lets you find districts with the highest or lowest values in any of the categories that you select.
    "Select Districts" means you can choose exactly which districts anywhere in the state that you want to compare. Click here for a description of how to use this option.

    The top of the "Values Selection" area has two radio buttons--Dollars-per-student or Total Dollars that allow you to control which view you see. The Dollars per Student view is the default selection.

    In the “Dollars per Student” view, revenues and expenditures are rounded to the nearest dollar. "Dollars per Student" is the total dollars for each revenue and expenditure category (including district charter schools that reported data) divided by the annual average daily attendance (ADA) for the district and district charter schools.
    In the “Total Dollars” view, revenues and expenditures are rounded to the nearest thousands of dollars. "Total Dollars" are revenue and expenditure totals by category in the General Fund.
    Step 1: Decide which districts to compare

    The district that you select on the district pull-downs (or you can use the find feature) controls the default values used for the comparison. See the "Districts like this" discussion of "close to."

    Step 2: Select the districts to compare using Comparison Values Selection

    "Compare...districts in" allows you to include districts from all of California or in a county. On the "Districts Like This" version you also have the option of requesting a list of districts within the county by clicking on "all districts in this county." Doing so will override the other options and take you directly to the Comparison Results Selection.

    "of type" allows you to compare all district types or to limit the comparison to a single type of district (such as only Elementary, High School, Unified or Charter districts). The default selection is the "current" district's type.

    Note: The combination of criteria that you select (such as "All elementary districts in California") may return more data than your computer or Internet browser can manage. If this happens, try again by narrowing the search criteria.

    "where largest ethnic group is" allows you to include all ethnic groups or select districts whose largest ethnic group is one of the seven reported to the California Department of Education.

    The "Districts like this" tab has the values on the pull-down list that you will select to compare districts as well as the definition of "close to" for each one. By selecting and setting your own "close to" values and varying the +/- percentages, you can discover a fascinating variety of facts. You can also control how "close" these values must be to the target school by changing the +/- percent. For instance, if your target district is large, you may be interested in seeing other districts with total revenue within 2% of your total revenue; but if your district is smaller, you may want to expand the comparison to look at districts that are within 10% of your total revenue.

    Besides the "close to" feature, you can search for districts with values "over" or "under" any of the given categories on either or both of the selection criteria. Otherwise, just leave the second option at "no selection".

    You may set the "close to" to zero to see only districts that exactly match the particular value you are interested in, or you can specify a number of your choice.

    "Show up to," a function available on both tabs, limits the number of districts that will appear in the results report. Although the report automatically displays all qualifying districts, you can narrow the number by selecting 10, 25 or 50 in the "Show up to" value. Information identifying the total number of districts that match the criteria will be reported in the status line at the top of the results page as "(n of m matches listed,...)."

    Your browser should display the selections in a color that indicates the category of data: Revenues, Expenditures by Type, Expenditures by Activity, and Teachers.

    If you are uncertain about the meaning of a term in the pull-down menus or in the options for the results page, check the "Highest/Lowest" tab.

    The “Highest/Lowest” tab allows you to choose “highest” or “lowest” values for a selected criterion, such as total revenue, teacher salaries, total expenditures, instruction-related services, etc. Again, you have the option of selecting a second criterion.

    For some highest/lowest values, the search will produce many matches. For example, many districts have 100% Fully Credentialed Teachers. In those cases, requesting the highest or lowest single value works best. For others, such as federal revenue, values range widely so that selecting the highest or lowest 5 or 10 values will give more robust results.

    If an item has no data for the selected year, it will be "grayed out" (or you will get a message saying that the data is unavailable).

    Notes on Selection Criteria:
    By default, the report compares districts with an enrollment close to the selected district. To change this focus, go back to the pull-down lists in the Comparison Values selection box ("...with) (see Step 2 above).
    The +/- percent behaves differently for percentages than it does for numbers. For example, for a Percent Free Meals value of 20 percent, +/- five percent means show any districts whose value is between 15 and 25 percent. But, for an Enrollment of 20, +/- five percent means districts whose enrollment is between 19 and 21.
    The full "Show up to" number of districts in the Selection Criteria will not be displayed in the results if fewer districts fit the selected criteria. For instance, if “Show up to” is 25 rows but only 20 districts fit the criteria, you will see 20 in the results.
    By default, your selected district will be in the results even if it does not match the criteria you selected. You can exclude it if you prefer by unchecking the selection box.
    Step 3: Comparison Results Selection Items

    The checked boxes in the results area show which columns (data elements) will be included in the results report for each district. To expand or reduce the items in your results report, just click a checkbox to select (or deselect) the item; you can also choose "all" or "none" in each category. Items that are not available in the selected year are grayed-out. Checking or unchecking a grayed-out item will result in a message saying that data is unavailable for that choice.

    Step 4: To see your results, Click to Compare
    splayed only after you “Click to Compare.” Results appear on a results tab that is not visible until you click to compare. The target district will be highlighted with a light green background (assuming it meets the selected criteria or you haven't unchecked the box to include it).

    Holding your mouse over an item in the results report will show what that entry is, such as "X District's % of fully credentialed teachers." This is particularly useful in long reports where the headers scroll off your screen. A click on one of the values in the comparison report takes you to the source of the information.

    Sorting the Results

    The comparison results are sorted in one of two ways. If "close to" criteria are given, the results are sorted by the first criterion. Otherwise, the results are sorted by the district name.

    To sort by a different column, simply click on the column heading. The same results are displayed but sorted according to the selected column.


    The comparisons, especially those with many columns, are best printed in "landscape" form. Immediately above the table displaying the results you will see a narrative description of the criteria used to produce the report, e.g., Compare all Unified school districts with “Employee Benefits” between $384 and $389 per ADA. By selecting (highlighting) this line and the table below and printing only the "selection" in the print options menu, you can avoid printing the navigation box.


    Click on the button at the right of the Compare Finances Results box to download the data as a spreadsheet. Depending on how your Internet browser is configured, you will either be prompted to save the data to a file on your computer, or the data will load into a spreadsheet that can then be saved to your computer. In addition to the columns shown on the report, each spreadsheet row includes the county code and district code.

    Alternatively, you can use your mouse to select the entire report, use your browser's copy feature, and then paste it in a new Excel file.

    Alternatively, you can select and copy the report, then paste it in a new Excel file.

    Small Screens

    To view the entire report, it may be necessary to scroll up and down or side to side on the screen.

    Data Sources

    The data in the Compare Districts report are drawn from the District Profile, the Accountability reports, and the Financial Statement for District on this site. The District Profile includes a link to Profile Definitions defining many of the terms used.

    With the exception of the county name, the data in each column on the results report are links to more detailed information for the individual district.

    To identify the columns on a lengthy report, just hold your mouse over the item.

    All contents copyright © 2015, Education Data Partnership. All rights reserved.

    Ed-Data is a partnership of the California Department of Education, EdSource and the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) designed to offer educators, policy makers, the legislature, parents, and the public quick access to timely and comprehensive data about K-12 education in California.