Part 1 School Finance: The Elephants in the School Budget


Armand Fusco:

The term “elephant” (huge, unwieldy, and does what it pleases with no limits) is being used to indicate that the various elements of the budget topics, in most situations, contain far more complexities than can be described generally because they tend to be local issues or considerations. The school budget process is like handling an elephant which is a huge part of schooling, very difficult to do if done right, and it needs a lot of training. The reality is that the budget preparation does not require any specific training or skills and that’s why it should be viewed with so much concern and suspicion. There are finance managers that are trained for schools, but all schools do not employ them. However, the issue is that the Super is responsible for the budget preparation and implementation without having the finance and budgetary training nor is it typically required as part of being certified.

School budgeting is probably the education topic that gets discussed more than any other; and, at the same time, seems so perplexing and confusing to understand because so many elephants roam the process. The purpose of this series is to explain school budget in all of its aspects so that taxpayers and parents can decipher it more easily.

The “anything goes elephant” means that the budget process is done locally and (1) there is no required standard or template that districts must follow; what must be followed are the budget procedures and categories outlined in what is called the School Board Policy Manual ( manual lists all of the policies governing the practices, procedures, and operations of the school system; it’s available for public view on the board’s website). Incidentally, it’s not like reading a book because most policies only take one or two pages (2) there is no limit to what can be included for expenditures other than what taxpayers are willing to pay and (3) there are also other budgetary procedures that are required by the local governing authority such as the need to adhere to specific timelines. Generally, the budgetary process is as follows:

Inside Education 6 continued. the School to Prison Pipeline: Those Who Care!