Jess Gartner, CEO of Allovue

As a seventh-grade teacher in a Baltimore City public middle school, Jess Gartner knew what starting the year without textbooks and paper meant for her classroom. But she also understood that the resource constraints in her room represented large-scale budgeting and purchasing decisions at the school and district levels. And she had a sense technology could help.

Driven by her belief that financial decisions can directly affect student success, Gartner founded Allovue in 2013. The edfintech start-up’s flagship software platform integrates with accounting systems to help K-12 leaders plan, manage and evaluate their spending.

“Of all the problems educators face, I saw the budget problem as one that was inherently solvable,” she said.

Today, Allovue today works with districts in 19 states, helping to budget and manage tens of billions of dollars in annual spending.

Why Baltimore?

Gartner grew increasingly interested in teaching as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned a spot with Teach for America, and listed Baltimore as her first choice – without really knowing why.

“I have no idea,” she said about the preference. “I have to chalk it up to some kind of fate because I had no family here. I had no connection to Baltimore whatsoever, except I came here on a field trip in [middle school].”

It was a fortuitous choice. While running a middle school classroom, Gartner earned her master’s in teaching at Johns Hopkins and grew attached to the city. In a 2016 press release, Allovue extolled “Baltimore’s burgeoning tech and education industries,” and “Gartner’s commitment to the city where her idea became a reality.”

The model keeps up with the moment

Allovue has evolved to provide cogent analysis in key areas. In recent years, school districts began increasingly asking whether resources were distributed equitably across racial and socioeconomic lines.

“Part of our mission as a company is to help school districts make more strategic choices more efficiently about their budgets and spending,” Gartner said. “We need to give them tools that can evaluate – through the lens of equity – that they are ensuring every student gets what they need to be successful.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Allovue provided free offerings to help school districts procure and deliver resources during closures, model resource-allocation scenarios to prepare for the revenue changes that will result from the pandemic, and provide guidance around next steps.

Gartner also used the pandemic to explain the entire edfintech field to social media followers, developing #edfintoks to reach a broader audience.

When city Comptroller Bill Henry described how he’d advise people interested in TikTok to take up the platform, he suggested: “Speak slow, use lots of on-screen text, and follow Jess Gartner.”