Three Ways Automation Can Improve the Efficiency of Employee Spending for K-12 Schools

Kendra Walters |

Doing more with less seems to be the mantra of most K-12 schools today. According to a 2018 New York Times article, a survey conducted by the Federal Department of Education stated that 94 percent of public school teachers reported spending an average of $479 of their own money on classroom supplies – with seven percent spending more than $1000.  

The confusion department managers have over policy and what’s being spent due to lack of visibility can be an expensive problem. According to The Journal K-12, an audit of Denver Public Schools found $92 million worth of Visa transactions over a two-and-a-half-year timeframe. During that period, $2 million worth of purchases “appeared to contradict school policy but were approved by the finance department anyway.”

How K-12 Schools Can Maximize Budget Efficiency and Transparency

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This brings up a unique challenge for K-12 schools. With large amounts of non-visible spend (such as school supplies), resources stretched thin, and budget cuts, finance departments at school districts and charter schools are looking for places to save and ways to gain control of faculty and staff expenses. Manual paper processes only exacerbate the issue, making visibility into what’s really being spent next to impossible. But cutting more funding for school programs doesn’t have to be the answer. Automating the travel, expense, and invoice process can make it easier for faculty and staff to spend budget more wisely and bring efficiencies to your schools. Here are the top three ways automation can help:


  1. Frees faculty and staff time by reducing time-consuming, manual tasks and errors

Doing more with less often means having short-staffed teams handle big volume tasks, such as manually reviewing expense reports, keying in invoices, and correcting data errors. Outdated infrastructure can add to the frustration of staff assigned to this work and lead to annoying, sometimes costly, mistakes.

Automation can speed up the efficiency and productivity of both expense and invoice reporting by streamlining expenses into a single system. This not only drastically reduces the time it takes staff to process requests, but also eliminates the need for manual data entry using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to scan receipts and invoices. An automated system can also look for errors to reduce the risk of costly mistakes that could end up in a compliance violation, overpayment, or missed opportunity for early payment discounts. Saving within these areas could help reallocate budget for school programs.


  1. Makes it easy for faculty and staff make the right choices and get reimbursed faster

When tools and processes are burdensome and hard to follow, it can lead to even more uncertainty from finance about where money is really being spent. For example, some forms of unfavorable behavior from employees who just want to get reimbursed include missing receipts, duplicate or unsubmitted expenses, and mistakes due to incorrect information inputted from manual entry. All of these unfavorable behaviors combined make it incredibly hard for finance to gain visibility, keep budgets aligned, and combat fraud.

Implementing an automated travel, expense, and invoice solution allows your faculty and staff to use their mobile phones to submit expense reports, track mileage, book travel, and submit and approve invoices on the go – without the hassle of paper – making it easy for them to follow the process. Plus, you’ll have more compliance with your policies and visibility into what’s being spent, allowing departments to properly budget and safeguard against fraud.

Not only that, but faculty and staff will love how fast they get reimbursed. By implementing a fully electronic process, Rochester City School District was able to take reimbursement time from 60-90 days down to just 11 days.


  1. Increases visibility into spend allowing for more effective budgeting

Employee expenses are, on average, between 6-12% of the annual budget, and spend categories are becoming ever-expansive – covering areas like supplies, training, travel, meetings, and mileage. But tracking down all this spend when it’s not always visible can lead to faulty budget forecasts – something that most school districts can’t afford. Especially when taking into consideration the budget requirements of the new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) and the fact that dollars are already scarce for student programs.  

Automation can help bring more visibility into employee spending by consolidating all the data collected from expense, travel, and invoice within a single platform. With all of the data at your fingertips, it’s easy for finance to account for every transaction, breaking out funds in different ways to see the complete picture of spend and making sure money is being allocated where it’s most needed.


For more information about how SAP Concur Solutions can help your school district, please visit us on the web or read more in our brochure, How K-12 Schools can Maximize Budget Efficiency and Transparency.