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How Accurate Addresses Hold the Keys to All School District Funding

February 26, 2021 at 11:23 AM

Home Sweet Home.

Home is ideally the centerpiece of family and student stability, and since March of 2020, ‘home’ has also become the classroom for a majority of students nationwide.

Home is also the focal point of modern public-school funding options – because K- 12 funding depends on a lot more than count days.

The accuracy of all students physical and mailing addresses has always been important to school districts, but the onerous task of keeping the data clean frequently keeps it off school administrators’ highest priority list. Many administrators simply don’t understand the full financial impact on school budgets via extra state and federal educational funding that’s available.

Quite literally, home and mailing addresses and the accuracy of that data, plays a major role in whether public schools are fully funded or if they are missing out on crucial available dollars. How this data is input at registration and ongoing tracking and management throughout the school year can make or break school district budgets. When it comes to addresses, inconsistencies like ‘Street’ vs. ‘St.’ or ‘Ave.’ vs ‘Lane’ (or ‘Ln.’) can cause a serious loss of district revenue – and here is how:

Using the Federal Nutrition Program as an example of not maximizing dollars: 3rd grader ‘Jane’ at 123 Main Street is eligible for free meals. Her older brother, ‘Jim’, a freshman in high school living in the same house will also qualify for free meals assuming that his exact address is 123 Main Street. If it is 123 Main St. or 123 Main, Jim may be overlooked and now the district is under-claiming the F/R numbers they are legally entitled to. This impacts district funding well beyond reimbursements.

The reality is that this address opportunity extends well beyond siblings.  Other students living at the same address, including a relative or friend of the family, can also follow the scenario above and those relationships are typically much more difficult to identify.

Bottom line: home addresses are used to tie students together for most state and federal programs, so the accuracy and consistency of how home addresses are entered, recorded, logged and cross-referenced through a district’s database is crucial. When the most basic home address connection is missed, your district misses out on extra funding.

The Easy Fix

Level Data, Inc. offers unique, efficient, user-friendly and very affordable plug-ins available for PowerSchool users that:

  • Makes sure every registrar has the automated tools to enter the data correctly, the first time, through what’s called State Data Validation Suite.
  • Runs validation reports every night on a school district’s data, and when errors are found a school district staff member is alerted.

“If there is an address in a school district’s system that doesn’t comply with the U.S. Post Office standards, it’s going to be flagged by Level Data and district personnel will be notified that there is an issue that needs to be investigated,” said Matt Betts, president of Level Data, based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “There’s never been a good way to proactively manage district addresses on a daily basis, until now. This is so unique in the ‘education space’ there isn’t a name or even an acronym for it yet.”

Level Data has chosen to term it ‘Mass Address Validation’ or MAV. The service applies to all address fields including:  student home addresses, mailing addresses, staff addresses as well as parent and emergency contact addresses. Not only are the addresses corrected, the proper geocode is automatically updated in the student record as well.

Ultimately, bad addresses can be extremely expensive. The real cost of erroneous addresses factors in lost time, higher overhead costs, increased postage, loss of revenue and frustrated parents, makes address validation one of the most crucial but least discussed projects facing schools today.

Jay Childers of Union County School District in South Carolina said his world has been turned up-side-down for the better for having always consistent data. Like all good district directors who try anticipating their return on investment, Childers plotted out certain expectations and desired outcomes for partnering with Level Data. The return was even easier to calculate considering Level Data only costs about one dollar per student.

“I underestimated the amount of time it would save us,” he said. “I knew using Level Data would make things better, but I didn’t realize how easy it was going to be for all of us. That’s been fantastic.”

Tom Lang
Written by Tom Lang

Tom Lang has spent more than 3 decades in the field of journalism and marketing, while always having a hand in public education. His father was a school teacher, his mom a school secretary, and his wife teaches high school English and Humanities. On his own, Tom worked his way through college as a school bus driver and today remains closely tied to education as a Board member of FIRST (Robotics) in Michigan. He has worked with high school coaches and athletes for nearly 30 years as a freelance sports writer at the Detroit Free Press, and for more than 10 years as a basketball referee. Bottom line -- help kids grow, learn and create productive futures.

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