You decided to revisit your district’s resource allocation model. Our world is changing so quickly, which means our student needs are also changing. It won’t happen overnight, it will take planning, and you may have to take time to get others on board. But the end result will be rewarding and can save your district time and resources. Use our guidelines to revise your district’s allocation model to help you along the way.
Implementing a revised funding model is an adjustment that affects all aspects of a school district. Convene a cross-departmental steering committee to help you define your guiding strategies and determine the desired outcomes of your resource allocation model. Consider including school principals, parents or community members and potentially members of your Board of Education to gather early feedback and buy-in.
Since a “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t apply for developing a resource allocation model, use your steering committee to develop a common definition of equity for your district as well as guiding strategies for the committee itself, the funding formula, and implementation. Lastly, make sure to identify who needs to be involved to approve the new model.
Set a realistic timeline. Successful districts don’t transition to resource allocation models overnight. A big transition like this may take several years. Often, the first year will include only a pilot group of schools or hold-harmless measures to scale the change over time.
Understand your current context. Ask how resources are currently distributed across your district. To incorporate student-based allocations, districts must have a solid definition of need and measure it objectively. Traditionally, districts rely on quantitative measures like grade level, IEP hours, language proficiency, FRPL status, and/or student performance.
Communicate with stakeholders. Talk to board members, students, parents, teachers, and principals. There should be no surprises. It’s incumbent upon district leaders to communicate the need for this change. Consider where potential gains and potential losses in funding will occur—this sensitive information must be communicated thoughtfully.
Create the formula. The resource allocation formula should aim to ensure that students with the highest need receive the most resources. Those priorities should be determined in partnership with stakeholders.
Project enrollment and create accountability. Districts should develop a process for accurately forecasting how many and what type of students will be enrolled at each school and each grade. This will be the primary input into the resource allocation formula. Funding should be adjusted later for schools that exceed or miss the enrollment target. Consider modeling a variety of enrollment scenarios alongside your resource allocation model to see how funding will be impacted by enrollment fluctuations.
As your steering committee begins modeling and assessing different resource allocation models, use the questions below to measure the efficacy of each model:
- Resolution of equity gaps: Is the model solving the problem we intended it to solve?
- Communication: Is it easy to understand?
- Sensitivity: How sensitive is the model to changes in parameters?
- Implications: What wraparound processes and policies have to change as a result of each of these scenarios?
- Impact to schools: How does funding in each model variation compare to the current state?
Get feedback from board members, principals, and members of your local community as you model and assess different funding scenarios.
Account for most spending at the school level. Most district spending must be attributed to individual schools in order to accurately represent all the resources being expended at a school. This style of accounting is a reporting requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
Consider limited exceptions and make contingency plans. Certain programs incur higher costs, like magnet schools. Consider whether those costs are justified, and if so, how to fund them. Be transparent about the costs and benefits. It’s also a good practice to set aside a small reserve fund for the unexpected.
Evaluate progress. Following implementation, districts should plan an annual review process. Resource allocation models should be regularly analyzed to ensure they are improving the equitable distribution of resources across schools. If the new resource allocation model falls short or new data needs to be considered, formulas should be adapted and changed. One way to infuse transparency is to commit to publishing a detailed annual report of the prior year’s spending by school.
Your district’s success will also depend on how well your district is trained to adopt the new changes. Aim to engage and reassure those affected by the resource allocation model on more than one occasion. Explain the specific and relevant benefits of the new funding model, assuring them of the district’s support. Clearly articulate the risks and benefits of the resource allocation model change to demystify the process. Ongoing communication and training is essential and should be tailored for each stakeholder group.
Districts that aspire to achieve greater equity in funding, flexibility in the use of funds, and transparency can successfully revise a resource allocation model even amidst structural, systemic, or financial challenges. How dollars are allocated to schools is the single most important lever in a district for advancing resource equity or perpetuating inequity. The time you invest in this work matters. What does your district resource allocation model say about your definition of equity? Are changes in order?
Curious to learn more?
Download our free eBook Better than Equal to get access to three example K-12 resource allocation models, thoughtful reflections on building equitable formulas, and practical advice for district leaders. Grab it here!
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.