As a fresh off-the-batch educator, I have a lot to learn. From teaching and classroom management to how schools really function. One thing that I have learned throughout my college degree in education is just how much power school budgets have when it comes to cutting classes off and providing limited resources for teachers among other things. All this financial responsibility had me wondering what exactly is a school budget and what are the different types of school budgets?
School budgets are public funds instituted by the state government. The funds are then applied to various aspects of the school/district and documented to justify their spending habits. There are two main types of budgets – site-based budgets and student-based budgets. There are some other budget types that are not the main focus but are popular nonetheless. We’ll explore these budgets in-depth, the main purpose of them, as well as the benefits.
Site-based budgets are constructed directly by staff and school leaders, allowing them to advocate what resources and budget needs are necessary to ensure the school is running efficiently. As the name sites, these budgets are individualized to their respective sites, allowing more freedom and access to funding.
Site-based budgets have several benefits. It allows schools to receive exactly what is needed from their individual sites and allows decentralization of government authority by allowing staff and school leaders in charge of the advocacy. This gives schools the opportunity to allocate and save resources as it can be ensured there is no funding that is being wasted.
Despite the freedom and flexibility of this type of budget, there also comes a huge responsibility. Freedom and autonomy over what resources are needed can be costly, especially if school leaders and staff are in disagreement of the funding needed or if they are not well versed in budgets, terminology, and data to help further advocate for their school. These disagreements can cause disproportionate funding which may, in return, create an underperforming school. It can also be time-consuming to gather and analyze what is needed to improve the school’s well-being.
Student-based budgets are based on the student population, demographics, and student needs. For example, if a school is considered a Title I school, it may be considered as part of a student-based budget, as Title I schools serve a student population in which a majority of them are in lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Basically, if student financial needs are high, the higher the possibility of receiving student-based funding.
The benefit of this type of budget is that you know where exactly the money is going; directly to the student. Like site-based budgets, it is individualized and staff and school leaders have authority in the funding process, but it already has its purpose, which is to aid student needs. Due to the specificity of this type of budget, it causes less conflict between school authorities and more flexibility in which student programs these fundings will be dedicated to.
Although the flexibility is limited in student-based budgets, there may still be conflict in how to productively distribute the funds for students’ needs. These can be either limitation from school authorities or through government funding. These can limit the amount of funding that can be provided for the students.
Popular School Budgets
Along with student based and site-based budgets, there are several other types of budgets that schools utilize such as (but not limited to):
- Line-item- budget creating based on previous “historical” data. Data analysis can be gathered through the documentation of a list of expenditures. Although this is one of the easiest budgets to prepare for and allows for ample organization of data, it does not provide useful information on how organizations within the school function.
- Program & planning- budget focused on establishing students and staff programs. Used for planning out goals and as feedback on which programs schools need to fund. This budget allows goals to be made for programs instead of being contingent on performance. However, it can lack direction especially if it lacks unanimous organizational goals.
- Performance-based- budget focused on performance. For example, if a particular student program or curriculum is doing well, more funding may be provided to further support the success of that program. However, funding may stop if performance is not deemed to be improving.
- Outcome-focused- budget focused on allocating resources and funding based on the outcome on school performance. It allows budgeting for planning out resources and programs, but the autonomy of this budget can cause conflict between authorities. Clear communication is needed in order to establish a successful outcome-focused budget.
What types of things do school budgets cover?
For the majority of the article, we have listed and talked about the different types of budgets, purposes, as well as their benefits. All of these budgets can cover series of categories in schools which are:
- Transportation ‐ school busses and bus drivers for students to go on field trips and be driven home
- Facilities- to ensure the school is a clean and safe environment for both students and staff
- Energy- things such as electricity bills, air conditioning, any energy/power needed for school events
- Health and Safety- funding necessary staff such as security and school nurses to ensure care and safety of students, along with any resources both security and nurses may need
- Instruction- funding dedicated to ensuring teachers are equipped with curriculum materials, and teacher is equipped with proper credentials and training to ensure the best learning from students
- Curriculum and Staff Development– funding dedicated to improving staff and teachers’ ability to provide students with the best possible space for learning along with training to ensure safety and the ability to staff to continue to develop skills
- Food Services- funding ensuring cafeteria provides the expected food
- Library Services– ensuring funding for books, library resources, technology for students to use
- Counseling Services- funding for both college and mental health counseling to further assist students in their social and emotional skills as well as organizational/advising help. Mental health services can provide a strong pillar of emotional support to any struggling student.
- School Leadership and Support– the staff surround educational leadership, districts, superintendents, principals, and vice-principals to ensure a thorough understanding of funding, education, and budget policies.
Where does the funding from school budgets come from?
For public schools, funding can come through community/local, state, and federal governments. Funding through state and federal governments is often contingent on school performance, student need, the type of school, as well as what programs are being implemented. Government funding may require certain expectations or rules upon granting funding such as money can only be utilized for programs or students only.
For community or local funding, there is less restriction in how the money will be used as long as it is utilized appropriately and productively. Community and local organizations have the most influence in improving schools as they have better knowledge of the school environment and what would greatly contribute to effective performance.
Important Notes to Consider
All of this research was focused on public schools. For private and charter schools, funding and budgets may vary, as the education system and government funding are different than that of public schools.