Philadelphia School District releases its budget data - Technical.ly Philly

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Philadelphia School District releases its budget data

The hope, the District said, is that releasing this data will empower the public and allow them to draw their own conclusions about what it takes to fund Philadelphia's schools. It also hopes that the civic hacking community will use the data to create apps and visualizations to help the public understand it.

Photo by Flickr user @wlscience, used under a Creative Commons license.

Full Disclosure: Technical.ly Philly organized TechCamp.

The Philadelphia School District released several data sets today, including budget and expenditure data for fiscal year 2014 and full-time employee counts for 2014 and 2015, according to a release.

It also released proposed budget data for fiscal year 2015. The expenditure data outlines all the School District’s contracts, while the budget data details top level spending, like, for example, much money will go toward teachers in elementary schools. That data does not list specific salaries for employees.

The data is downloadable in .csv form. You can also see the data in PDF format here.

See the raw data here

The data comes at a time when the School District’s budget — and budget deficit — has been the subject of countless meetings, political dealings and news stories. It also follows the city’s release of contract expenditure data, though the city has still not yet released budget data.

The School District “wants to be as transparent as possible,” said Phil Ichinaga, the District’s executive director of information technology security.

The hope, the District said, is that releasing this data will empower the public and allow them to draw their own conclusions about what it takes to fund Philadelphia’s schools. It also hopes that the civic hacking community will use the data to create apps and visualizations to help the public understand it. The release comes right before Philly’s EdTech Hackathon, held next week.

The District released data on enrollment and test scores last February, right before education hackathon TechCamp, organized by Technical.ly Philly, the State Department and the District. TechCamp helped push the open data conversation, Ichinaga said in an email, “because it stressed the need for openness/transparency and the need for outside help (looking at the data, challenging the data, interpreting the data, etc.).” Many TechCamp attendees — teachers, District staff and civic technologists — asked about future data releases and had ideas about how to use that data, he added.

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The District’s Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski has championed the effort, which has been in the works for about a year, said Michael Gallagher of the District’s Office of Information Systems, which worked with Stanski’s office to release this data. The School District plans to keep releasing this kind of data year over year, Gallagher said, and is open to hearing suggestions about what other kinds of data would be useful (for example, budgets from past years).

At last year’s TechCamp hackathon, a group of hackers led by Chris Brown built a District budget visualization using budget PDFs. See the project on Github here.

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