In an era of aggressive public education reform, school districts face increasing pressure to produce higher levels of student performance with increasingly limited resources. The economic downturn has forced many districts to tighten their belts, and careful thought must be given to how each and every dollar is spent. Optimally, district leaders should work with stakeholders in their communities to set goals, analyze current spending, provide transparency in their budgeting, and consider cost-saving and reallocation strategies.
The Rennie Center has created a toolkit, Smart School Budgeting: Resources for Districts, aiming to assist district leaders in decision-making about school budgeting. Smart School Budgeting is intended to push school leaders to take a more deliberative approach to school budgeting. The resources presented in the toolkit act as a starting point for districts examining their own budgeting processes. The document is designed as a user-friendly summary of existing literature and tools on school finance, budgeting, and resource allocation that directs district leaders and school business officials to practical and useful information to shape resource decisions. Each section includes an overview of a critical topic in school budgeting, summaries of useful documents and resources, relevant case studies (if available), and a resource list with hyperlinked documents for easy access. The toolkit is organized around the following topics: introduction and context for school budget analysis; setting goals; types of budgets; strategies for analyzing spending; tools for budget analysis; and cost-saving strategies.
This toolkit was released at a public event on October 3, 2012.