budget change


See Some Winning Hands

Hand 2: Target Turnaround Schools

Net Budget Change = -5.7%

This hand emphasizes investment in low-performing schools and interventions for struggling students with savings in compensation, class size, school configurations, and changes to standard staffing and funding formulas.


  • Identify your strongest principals and encourage them to move to the 25% lowest performing schools
    0.0% Why?
  • Provide a week of professional development for principals on teacher evaluation, using available summer time at no additional cost
    0.0% Why?
  • Add a social services coordinator in 25% lowest performing schools
    0.4% Why?
  • Add Pre-K for 50% of Kindergarten students
    1.5% Why?
  • Pay teachers for 60 additional minutes per week to be spent in collaborative planning
    0.2% Why?
  • Reduce average English/Language Arts and math class size for grade 9 by 6 to support transition to high school
    0.6% Why?
  • Adjust teacher schedules so that teachers who share course content or students have the same free periods
    0.0% Why?
  • Provide double blocks of English/language arts and math for struggling students and students in transition grades
    0.0% Why?
  • Introduce principal residency program to build leadership capacity
    0.1% Why?
  • Provide a 2% across the board teacher salary increase
    0.8% Why?
  • Offer $10K stipends to attract Master Teachers to the 25% lowest performing schools
    0.2% Why?
  • Restructure the school day to provide 60 additional minutes of collaboration planning
    0.0% Why?
  • Increase funding to schools that are underfunded on a per pupil basis
    1.0% Why?
  • Invest to implement and build capacity for a teacher evaluation and data system (one time investment)
    0.5% Why?
  • Provide one-time payment for course work to allow for cross-certification across multiple subjects and specialties for 10% of teachers
    0.8% Why?


  • Reduce special education administration and compliance spending at the central office 10% by using technology and by redesigning processes
    -0.2% Why?
  • Eliminate cost of living adjustments (COLA) and replace with market based adjustments when revenues allow
    -0.8% Why?
  • Reduce the cost of employee benefits by 10%
    -2.0% Why?
  • Make teacher layoff decisions based on performance instead of seniority
    -0.4% Why?
  • Increase average Secondary class size in non-core/elective classes only by 4 (“non-core” subjects are subjects other than English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, Science and World Language)
    -0.8% Why?
  • Close/Consolidate under-enrolled schools to increase district utilization from 85% to 90%
    -0.5% Why?
  • Reduce extra spending on very small schools by 25% by changing staffing models and funding formulas
    -0.8% Why?
  • Replace the top 5% most expensive high school classes with comparable on-line offerings
    -0.2% Why?
  • Partner with community groups to provide after school programs
    -0.2% Why?
  • Reduce Central Office and non-school management and overhead by 10%
    -0.1% Why?
  • Reduce Facilities and Maintenance costs by 10%
    -0.7% Why?
  • Reduce funding to schools that are overfunded on a per pupil basis
    -1.0% Why?
  • Reduce school-based administrative and clerical staff by 10%
    -0.3% Why?
  • Increase average Secondary School class size by 2
    -1.4% Why?
  • Partner with community groups to provide 50% of summer school programs
    -0.1% Why?
  • Reduce special education placements by 5% by addressing over-identification
    -0.3% Why?
  • Bring special education class sizes from 70% to 75% of target size as mandated in staffing ratios and Individual Education Plans (IEP)
    -0.6% Why?
  • Remove one section of 4th and 5th grade in big schools and one section of either 4th or 5th grade in small schools, increasing 4th and 5th grade average class size by 4
    -0.9% Why?
  • Increase average Elementary special subject (music, art, Phys. Ed.) class size by 5
    -0.5% Why?


  • Increasing core instructional time, intervention efforts, including Pre-K, and social service support for struggling students
  • Recruiting strong school leaders
  • Incentivizing teachers to work in low-performing schools and to cross-certify
  • Investing in collaborative planning, evaluation, and support


  • Consolidating under-enrolled schools and reducing cost premiums of small schools
  • Streamlining school-based and central administration
  • Improving Special Education referrals and program management
  • Reducing compensation through benefit restructuring and performance-based dismissals
  • Increasing class sizes in certain non-core subjects and upper grades
  • Utilizing community resources for after-school and summer programs

It is nearly impossible to make up significant budget shortfalls without improving administrative and operational efficiencies and looking at compensation and targeted class size increases. These moves embody the research that small group instruction at key junctures during the school day and effective, well-supported teaching are far better investments than expensive, district-wide small class sizes.

Your individual district context will dictate variations on these themes as you sort through what you can target in the short and long-term. What is important is that you see these cards as critical trade-offs that can get you closer to reform during these tough fiscal times.

As you contemplate controversial changes to compensation, class size or building usage, you'll need to consider your political capital. Cuts will be more palatable with clear communication of the decision process and corresponding gains. Developing a sequenced approach over several budget cycles will allow you to communicate your goals, build consensus, and avoid trying to introduce too many changes at once.