Oct 11, 2021

Strategic Budgeting: Assessing Resources, Part 1

Mark Fermanich
Coin Graph Against Message On Blackboard


Welcome to the fourth blog post in the Region 5 Comprehensive Center’s Strategic Budgeting series.  In these posts we will walk through the five elements of Strategic Budgeting to help provide additional tools to local education officials who want to think more strategically about how to use their resources. The five elements of Strategic Budgeting are:

Five Element graphic showing the circular connections among the elements. List of five elements. Identifying Vision and Goals, Assessing Resources, Using Data, Communicating with District, Continuous Improvement


Assessing Resources icon



Today's post is the first of two about Assessing Resources. 




Laying the Foundation: Identifying Vision and Goals to Develop a Plan

Illustration of two people having a discussion at a table.

In our last two blog posts (here and here) we discussed identifying a vision and goals for your district. Essentially, producing a statement of the priorities that guides the actions of your district.

After establishing your goals, you should next develop a strategic or improvement plan that becomes the roadmap for attaining your goals. Here is an example of one we helped develop. This plan should provide details about the specific strategies and programs your district will implement to achieve your goals. Importantly, the plan should also state what resources are needed for implementation, and where these resources will come from.


Defining and Assessing Current Resources

Illustration of four people with thought bubbles and having a discussion.

Using strategic budgeting, resource allocations should be tightly aligned with your goals and improvement plan. If your goals change, or your roadmap for achieving your goals changes, then your allocation of resources generally changes accordingly. Resources include staff, time, materials, technology, culture, and other inputs that go into providing schooling.  This process consists of examining all resource areas, including instruction, administration, maintenance and operations, and other areas. For nearly 40 years, APA has helped districts and stakeholders use the resources that best serve students.  In our work, we have found it is not unusual for districts to have a clearly stated vision and goals. But have found that resources were not, in fact, targeted toward achieving these goals. For example, one district’s highest priority goal was to ensure all students were reading at grade level by third grade—a goal it was missing. However, a review of its professional development budget found spending scattered across 28 different topics with less than 6 percent dedicated to reading instruction. These blogs and office hours will offer an opportunity for districts to identify this misalignment of resources.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many districts have reduced certain resource allocations and introduced others, such as additional technology to support remote learning. States and districts are also receiving significant American Rescue Act ESSER III funding to support a safe reopening of in-person instruction and address learning loss that may have occurred over the past year and a half. Now is the time to revisit your goals in light of any lessons learned about your district’s strengths and weaknesses, equity across different family and student groups, and instructional approaches to ensure current resources are allocated appropriately. We recommend you examine if any reductions should be brought back at the same scale, if at all, and whether a new way of allocating these short-term resources might provide greater long-term value to the district.


Putting the Pieces Together: Connecting the Five Elements of Strategic Budgeting

People doing different activities on a puzzle

Keep in mind, assessing resources is only one part of the larger, interconnected approach of strategic budgeting. You first need a clear vision and set of corresponding goals, along with a plan for achieving them. This plan should be grounded in data and evidence on what works. Next, think about the resources needed to implement your improvement plan—what does it take in terms of staffing, professional knowledge and skills, instructional materials, technology, use of time, culture to achieve the identified vision and goals? Then, look at current resource allocations. Do they line up with what you need? If not, what steps can you take to improve this alignment?


Next Week’s Blog Post

In our next post, we will provide more detail on how to go about assessing current resources to ensure they are aligned with your vision, goals, and improvement plan. We will also highlight some resources that may be of help.  We hope you will join us. In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions or suggestions. You can reach us at BradKeller@westat.com




New posts will appear on the here on Monday mornings, so feel free to bookmark that page. This is the fourth post in the series; if you want to start at the beginning of the series, go here.  The previous post was the second half of this discussion about vision and goals, and can be found here.

Keeping Up With Our Posts

If you would like to be notified when new posts in this series are published, please email BradKeller@westat.com and ask to be put on the notification list. 

To extend this conversation further, follow and use the hashtag #R5OfficeHours on Twitter


Thanks to those who joined us for our previous virtual office hours. These monthly opportunities to virtually join live with the authors, ask questions, provide feedback, and discuss the topics explored in this series are for one hour on the last Tuesday of the month, at 1 pm Eastern Time. This month’s Office Hour is Tuesday October 26th at 1 pm Eastern Time/Noon Central Time.  You can click here to register and add the event to your calendar.


This blog post is in the public domain. While permission to reprint is not necessary, this publication should be cited. The blog post is prepared by the Region 5 Comprehensive Center under Award #S283B190030 for the Office of Program and Grantee Support Services (PGSS) within the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) of the U.S. Department of Education, and is administered by Westat. The content of the blog post does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the PGSS or OESE or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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