Wide funding differences across schools, with unplanned and inconsistent school sizes, program offerings, and locations.
School funding is equitable, flexible, and transparent; and the portfolio of schools reflects student and community need, equity of access, and cost.
System leaders can redesign strategic funding systems to be equitable, flexible, and transparent. Equitable funding systems differentiate funding according to student need, while also ensuring a base from which students in all schools can thrive. Flexible funding systems ensure that resource use is driven by the unique needs and instructional vision of each school, not rigid funding requirements. Transparent systems allow everyone to understand the choices made, building trust and enabling strategic planning.
At the same time, system leaders can create dynamic school portfolios that adjust the sizes, grade-spans, program offerings, and even governance structures of their schools to reflect student and community need and ensure equitable access across students and geography, all informed by cost considerations.
See how U-46 School District in Illinois faced a budget deficit of $45 million and worked with the school board and the community to make strategic budget cuts—with students as their priority.
A 10-minute self-assessment tool that helps district leaders and others identify which of your strategies are likely to lead to student success—and where there are opportunities to improve.
A working paper that explores the many dimensions of resource equity that support academic excellence.
Read our Cleveland case study and learn why, and how, effective student-based budgeting must be linked with Strategic School Design.
Take the case of two high schools in the same large urban district. Cutler’s demographics and performance imply that it has higher needs than Kingston, but Kingston receives nearly 50% more funding.
Although districts strive for funding equity—students and schools with comparable needs receiving comparable funding—most districts' funding systems create disparities without district leaders even realizing they exist.
Variation in funding is not inherently bad. Equitable funding is not about providing equal funding to all schools. It’s about giving each school its “fair share” based on its need.
There are four primary drivers that account for most of the unintended variation in school funding:
Explore the following tools and publications to improve equity:
For school districts, it is extremely difficult to forecast from year-to-year, and yet providing funding transparency is critical to ensuring strategic decision-making at the school level.
Districts should ensure that:
Determining whether the budgeting process is transparent is largely a qualitative affair. Things to consider include:
A good starting indicator for transparency is the percentage of the district budget reported at the school level.
Our work with dozens of urban districts has highlighted numerous barriers to funding flexibility in schools:
Effective school leaders need the authority, capacity, and support to organize their schools around a clear vision for improvement. First steps for district leaders to enable this include:
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