As education leaders, understanding that each year is unpredictable is part of the job. 2020 pushed the bounds of unpredictability and, as a consequence, many of our resource allocation and budgeting practices were put to the test. Ask yourself the questions below to assess your district’s response from the pandemic and areas for improvement moving forward.
How nimble and effective are your financial systems?
Communication and technology are put to the test while working in remote environments. Were you able to get your data in a timely manner with the technology you currently use? Was your budgeting team able to make swift decisions/changes/modifications during the initial period of quarantine in the spring and still plan for the upcoming school year in the fall? Set your team up for success by creating new systems or leveraging existing systems and processes that allow you to make adjustments to budgeting and resource allocation in real-time.
Seek out systems and protocols that allow you to pull and share reports or data quickly and with little effort. Don’t assume that your ERP or accounting system will meet this need!) Be intentional and proactive in creating operations that are best for your team and your district.
How did your resource allocation formula adjust with disruptions to in-person learning?
School districts implemented in-person, virtual, and hybrid learning environments for the 2020-2021 school year. Different instructional models require different resource allocation models. How are you funding student-teacher ratios? What constitutes a virtual “class-size” limit? If your district uses a weighted funding formula, what changes did you have to make to weights, student subgroups, or to the formula itself?
Did you maintain fiscal equity?
Depending on your instructional and service-delivery models and new, unplanned additional costs, you may not be able to provide the resources that you once planned. After all, priorities have shifted this year. Make sure resources realign to your new priorities so that you can continue to advance, or at least maintain, fiscal equity. Discover something that works well (e.g., virtual cost-sharing of low-enrolled AP classes across schools) and consider adjusting the budget for the upcoming year to prioritize those plans. The major takeaway: stay intentional in your efforts to support fiscal equity!
Now that it’s time to plan for 2022, being proactive is key. By asking your team these questions, you can lay the foundation for a solid game plan. Your budget will change during times of uncertainty, but a solid process or system can withstand unprecedented times.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Allovue works with districts and state departments of education across the country to allocate, budget, and manage spending. Allovue's software suite integrates seamlessly with existing accounting systems to make sure every dollar works for every student. Allovue also provides additional services such as chart of accounts and funding formula revisions.