Nov 22, 2021

Strategic Budgeting: A Summary of Our Journey

Brad Keller
Rebecca Valenchis
Red apple on a stack of books

This is the final blog post in the Region 5 Comprehensive Center’s, series on strategic budgeting.  We hope this post serves as a summary of the information, as well as a resource to help you organize the material we’ve presented. 

Don’t forget to join us for the final Office Hours on Tuesday, November 30, at 1 pm (Eastern Time).  You can register and get a link to the virtual session here.

 

Overview

As we showed in many of our posts, we’ve stylized the five elements of strategic budgeting into this graphic, with “Identifying Vision and Goals,” “Assessing Resources,” and “Using Data” in a circle, each affecting the other two.  Then, “Communicating with the District” is linked to each of the first three.  Finally, “Continuous Improvement” encircles all of the other four elements, since it should be infused within the entire system. 

Five elements graphicFive elements graphic text

 

A Recap of the Five Elements

In our first post, we talked through the reason to think about your budget strategically, and introduced the idea of five elements comprising a strategic budgeting process. 

Vision and Goals 

  • Part I asked how your district’s vision and goals were identified, suggested that it might be time to re-examine them, and reminded you about the holistic nature of this process.
  • Part II listed several ways to assess your vision and goals and described how to design a process to constructively revise your district’s vision and goals.

Assessing Resources

  • Part I introduced the idea of defining and assessing your current resources.
  • Part II provided more detail about assessing your resource allocations—outlining three different approaches and listing other considerations when undertaking this process. 

Using Data

  • Part I described both the macro and micro levels to using data to inform resource allocation decisions. 
  • Part II detailed Cost Effectiveness (CE) analysis and how it may help districts make better resource-allocation decisions. 

Communicating with the District

  • Focused on four essential questions to ask whenever the district communicates, to help you better identify things like your audience, goals, and communication methods.  A four-step process to develop a district strategic communication plan was also outlined. 

Continuous Improvement

  • Explained the “Plan, Do, Study, Act” process and included examples of how you could apply CI to the other four elements. 

Illustration of people putting puzzle pieces together

 

What now?

Now that you’ve taken this journey with us, how do you apply these lessons in your work?  If you work in a school district central office, you can work with your staff and other stakeholders to discuss your vision and goals, and how you can assess resources and use data to think through how (or whether) your Now that you’ve taken this journey with us, how do you apply these lessons in your work?  If you work in a school district central office, you can work with your staff and other stakeholders to discuss your vision and goals, and how you can assess resources and use data to think through how (or whether) your allocation of resources reflects your true priorities.  If not, use the Communication and Continuous Improvement tools we’ve discussed to begin to address that. 

If you’re outside of the school district hierarchy, you can communicate with those inside to ask questions about these topics and help guide them through a constructive discussion. 

But the larger takeaway is that all of this work is interconnected.  Performing one piece of this work (e.g., performing only a cost-effectiveness analysis) will provide some insight, but isn’t really enough to get you where you want to go.  To make lasting change—that is, to budget strategically—you should really undertake a holistic approach to ensuring a tight alignment between your spending and priorities. 

Easy, right? 

Well, if this seems like a bigger bite than you’re able to take right now, keep this process in mind over the coming weeks and months.  You can look for opportunities to broaden whatever the current conversation is about, to encompass some of the larger issues that might be affecting your district—especially when it comes to your American Rescue Plan (ARP) and other funds. 

Good luck, and keep in mind that the Region 5 Comprehensive Center and the National Comprehensive Center are both here to help. 

 

Housekeeping

We’ll be back one more time, next week, to remind you about the upcoming Office Hours session and offer some additional resources.  But otherwise, it’s been a great ride, and we thank you for coming along. 

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

Office Hours

Our final monthly “office hour” is Tuesday, November 30 at 1 pm Eastern Time/Noon Central Time.  These sessions are designed so you can join live with the authors (virtually), to ask questions, provide feedback, and discuss the topics explored in this series.  You can click here to register and add the event to your calendar.

Legal Stuff

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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