If your community-based organization would like to launch a school finance initiative in your community, you can use this toolkit as a starting point. The toolkit walks through the major steps organizations have gone through in their own initiatives, offering advice and examples of tools you can adapt for your own use. The toolkit explores the major challenges organizations have faced in this work, and how they have addressed those challenges. And the toolkit points you toward other resources that can help you find and analyze information about school finance. This toolkit is not itself a primer on school finance. Except in passing, it does not explain how school funding works in school districts. You will have to obtain this kind of background information from other resources (some listed in this toolkit) and as you go along.
The toolkit contains five major sections:
Get Started. This section helps you set a mission for your school finance initiative, organize your people to get the job done, and find the resources to get the job done.
Engage the Public. This section discusses strategies for engaging the public up-front, finding out what citizens want to know about school finance -- and why.
Crunch the Numbers. This section addresses the nitty-gritty work of creating a community guide to the school budget, offering helpful tips on finding, analyzing, and presenting information effectively.
Put the Numbers to Work. This section talks about ways you can use the information you have gathered as a catalyst for community-wide discussions of school finance and its impact on school quality.
Resources. This section contains a variety of tools used by community-based organizations in their school finance initiatives, everything from town meeting agendas to focus group questions to budget analysis spreadsheets. This section also contains references to many sources of data about school finance, many of them just a mouse-click or toll-free call away.