Process improvements at the district level can have significant impact on how systems and funds are managed and how decisions are made to enhance outcomes. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of non-instructional processes and practices can help to maintain accurate records, create accurate budgets, better align and allocate resources, monitor and report on spending, streamline processes to reduce waste, and provide a complete and reliable view of financial performance. Technology and the creation of meaningful data systems play an important role in supporting this work.
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Benchmarking to assess opportunities for realignment
- Ohio Education Matters (OEM) – This public policy research organization conducted a benchmarking study as part of its Ohio Smart Schools initiative. The study reviewed state spending on non-instructional areas and identified Ohio districts that get more for their money in this area. It concluded that the state could save nearly $1.4 billion annually, in state and local non-instructional spending, by implementing the best practices of Ohio’s most productive districts.
Leveraging technology to inform instructional and non-instructional practices
- Forsyth County Schools – Forsyth County Schools in Georgia plans to centralize data from a multitude of systems to inform teacher instructional practice. The district plans to implement an integrated content management system, replacing current silos of data with a streamlined learner-based system informed by student performance, as well as teacher, administrative, and parental inputs. The district is pursuing this work with the help of federal Investing in Innovation funds. Use of the new system will enable the district to decrease the number of students with four or more high need indicators, increase student achievement and student growth across subgroups, and increase on-time graduation rate of all students at the cost of $18 per participant each year.
Budgeting tools to support more flexible resource allocations
- Weighted Student Funding (WSF) – Under this funding structure, dollars are allocated per student based on their needs, and these funds follow the child if and when they move from one public school to another. The basic principle behind weighted student funding is to create greater educational equity by funding students, not programs or adults, and creating incentives for schools to serve students with needs well. Several districts are implementing WSF including Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, Hartford, Houston, New York City, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Philadelphia. Additional link here.
- Budgeting in per-unit costs – To assist school districts in assessing their finances, analysts and other experts have recommended budgeting in per-unit costs. Though not a practice in common use, this approach can help districts by identifying misalignments of resources and priorities, areas of waste or cost savings, and out-of-control spending, for example. This practice can also help to increase transparency in the budget process, justify the reallocation of funds, and improve decision making.