Articulating the rules, concepts, and ideas behind resource allocation in your district is a key component of equity-based budgeting. In doing so, everyone can understand the assumptions that underly resource decisions and administrators can better make adjustments, as needed. By describing all of the thinking that determines how staffing and dollars flow to school sites, your district will be better positioned to budget equitably. This activity creates a foundation upon which to ask key questions like, "Do the ways dollars travel to students make sense? If we were to make changes, where would we start?" Consider the five prompts below to stretch your thinking.
1. How do you think your community defines resource equity?
How dollars are allocated to schools (and, thereby, the students who attend them) is the single most important lever in a district for advancing resource equity or perpetuating inequity. However, there is no single best approach to translate student needs to school resources in an equitable way. Each district community has to define equity and develop resource allocation methods to support equity based on their unique needs. What assumptions and priorities drive your community's understand of resource equity?
2. Have the ESSER Maintenance of Equity requirements impacted how you are allocating these funds? Have they raised concerns about other sources of funds?
The Maintenance of Equity (MOEquity) requirements under ESSER are designed to ensure that resources are allocated to meet the needs of students who have been subject to opportunity gaps in the education system and have also been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic. Typically, this includes students from low-income families, students of color, English learners, students with disabilities, and students experiencing homelessness. Consult guidance from federal and state resources for specifics on the MOEquity requirements and how they may apply to your district's relief funds.
3. Write down three ways that you determine how many resources you budget in each school next year.
Similar to a district's desire to show the processes that underly how funds are used, it's just as important to explain why dollars are available at each school site in the first place. What rules or policies result in resource availability for each school? This context can help administrators, principals, and communities have meaningful conversations about strategic priorities and resourcing.
4. Do any of these methods specifically take student needs into account? Which ones and how? How might you modify or add to these 3 rules to better align resources with student needs?
Be sure to consider how the COVID-19 pandemic may have created new student need categories that didn't exist before. These new categories of need may have implications for the "learning loss" dollars earmarked in ESSER relief funding. How can you classify these students and include them in your resource allocation model in a way that precisely guides ESSER dollars? Categories to consider include:
- Interrupted schooling (quarantine, unenrolled, etc.)
- Instructional days in virtual vs. hybrid vs. in-person
- Especially low attendance
5. Does your district have any process for checking how dollars are spent on specific student groups in alignment with resource allocation practices?
Districts do a lot of planning—building annual budgets, planning grant spending, intervention planning, and more. Since all of this planning typically happens in different places, it can be difficult to understand the effects of these plans in the context of student need. How can we better connect operational data with student learning and other key outcomes? Consider ways you can support administrators in understanding:
- How resources are used
- When resources are used
- What impact those resources were intended to have
- What happened relative to what was planned
Keep in mind—equity-based budgeting has two components: making sure the right resources end up at the right schools to support students and strategically budgeting those dollars. Once you know that each school has the resources you believe they should have, you can begin to determine if those resources are being used for the students and activities they were intended to support.
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.