Fair and Balanced, What More Can We Ask of a School Budget?
By Nyesha McCauley
May 23, 2013
A school budget document, in many ways, resembles a phone book. Both are big, fat books filled with numbers. But the difference is, Hartford Public Schools’ budget contains the financial future for the 2013-2014 school year.
At the Tuesday April 30th Board of Education meeting, the budget was approved by a vote of 6-1 and brought with it a discussion about equity in the funding formula.
How much money is allocated to each school? And is the way we fund schools just and fair? To answer that question you have to understand the way schools receive money.
Shortly after Dr. Steven Adamowski became Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools in 2006 a new school funding model was introduced. This model would designate money to schools according to how many students are enrolled at that school and the needs of the student – Student Based Budgeting.
Every school is not the same. Enrollment numbers change from year to year and the needs of students vary. For instance, a school may need additional funding based on a student’s grade level, special education status or whether the student is an English language learner.
Allocating money to the school puts the responsibility on the Principal to manage the resources they need to operate their school. Schools have true operating costs. They need teachers, custodians, clerical staff, security, and a host of other personnel. Not to mention books and supplies.
One of the benefits of a student based budgeting approach is parents and the community can also have a say in how money is allocated at their school through the School Governance Council.
Prior to Student Based Budgeting, decisions on how schools managed their resources were made from the Central Office – a more top down approach.
Board members discussed which formula is best and while everyone did not agree an interesting question emerged from Board member Richard Wareing on whether the District, City and State agencies should put more money into the lowest performing schools?
This funding formula fairness question requires further analysis and will be addressed at a future time by the Board. This is one to watch. After all, how we spend our money is a reflection of our values and goals.