Bo Yan


Strategies to Turn “Defense” into “Offense” in Budget Discussions

Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) published a new School Business Minute. The minute is based on the presentation Strategies to turn from defense to offense I gave at the 2019 ASBO Annual Conference & Expo. If you are an ASBO member, you can search MM03 in the AC&E Session Recordings Library on the Global School Business Network to access the full recording.


Re-engineer Choice Architecture to Improve Budget Decisions

Each year, district leaders make many decisions about school and district finances. Hidden behind those myriad decisions is a choice architecture, which, explicitly or implicitly, defines and shapes leaders’ decision-making. Learning from behavioral economics, this article offers a new perspective to look at the functions and tasks school business officials (SBOs) perform in relation to the choice architecture and calls for rethinking the role SBOs can and should play in facilitating those decisions. Specifically, three essential components of choice architecture are highlighted: default, anchor, and framing. For each component, prevalent design features and their impact on budgetary decisions are discussed. […]


How to Discontinue Programs That Are No Longer Viable?

I was kindly asked by Allovue to write a blog piece for the Budget and Resources framework of Future Ready Schools. In this piece, I first discuss the root causes of some common challenges leaders face when they try to discontinue or downsize programs that are no longer viable, and then explain how cycle-based budgeting can help address those challenges. My colleague Mr. Stephen Leach contributed to this piece. A special thank you goes to Ms. Autumn Dorsey at Allovue for the editorial improvements. A vital function of the annual school district budgeting process is to identify programs and expenditures […]


Five Issues around Using Academic Return on Investment (A-ROI) to Inform and Improve Decisions: Part III – Commensurability

COMMENSURABILITY Assuming that we have obtained valid A-ROI estimates for multiple investments, there remain issues to be considered and addressed when using those results for investment comparisons and decisions. The issues center on the extent to which those different A-ROI estimates can be compared to gauge relative cost-effectiveness and, if the answer is yes, how to compare them properly. First, there is the issue of different outcome measures. For example, A-ROI is calculated for three investments that are intended to increase reading achievement, reduce suspension, and improve sense of belonging, respectively. It is apparently inappropriate to compare the results directly […]


Five Issues around Using Academic Return on Investment (A-ROI) to Inform and Improve Decisions: Part II – Uncertainty

In the first post of this series, I discussed validity of A-ROI as a measure of cost-effectiveness. In this post, I focus on uncertainty embedded in A-ROI results. In the business world, ROI is largely treated as an accounting measure with certainty, but the certainty only applies to the accounting period. That is, for a three-year investment, the ROI result is a both accurate and precise representation of its profitability over those three years only. Consumers of ROI information are admonished about risks when applying it to the future or other contexts. Generally, little is provided about those risks other […]


Five Issues around Using Academic Return on Investment (A-ROI) to Inform and Improve Decisions: Part I – Validity

You can download a pdf version of this article at https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED603587 INTRODUCTION Return on investment (ROI) is a concept that originated in the business world in the early twentieth century. According to the Hagley Museum and Library, the concept and the formula were first developed in 1914 by Donaldson Brown, the Assistant Treasurer of the DuPont Company, for monitoring business performance as the company was grappling with diversifying from explosives to lacquers, Pyralin plastics and dyes[1]. ROI was quickly adopted by the DuPont Company as their primary performance measure for all of its departments and later required for all capital […]


Response to Readers: How to Address the “It’s all for kids so it is all important” Mentality

From a reader I am a business official in Arizona and I really enjoyed your article in the September ASBO International School Business Affairs publication. I agree with much of the process you described in the article. I have been working for school districts for over 20 years and have always struggled with the program prioritization process. I often run into the “it’s all for kids so it is all important” mentality. Unfortunately, when you try to use quantitative data alone you also get skewed results.  I was wondering if you could share more detail about how you implement this process? Thank you in advance […]


Ten Key Concepts of Cycle-based Budgeting — Part I

Cycle-based Budgeting (CBB) is built on ten key concepts, which you will see throughout this web site and in the toolkit. You can use these ten terms to help explain to your colleagues what CBB is about, why it can be helpful, and how to do it.  Due to its length, this post is divided into two parts. In this part, the following five key concepts are presented: Budget as Investment Investment Item Investment Item Owner Investment Cycle Expected Return BUDGET AS INVESTMENT Differentiating certain budget items as investments sets the conceptual foundation for approaching those financial resources differently.  A school […]


How to Prioritize Programs for Funding Decisions?

This article was written in collaboration with Dr. Fiona Hollands, Associate Director and a Senior Researcher for the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. It appears in the September 2018 issue of School Business Affairs, published by the Association of School Business Officials International. Each year during the budget season, district and school leaders have the opportunity to make budgetary adjustments to make sure limited resources are used both effectively and efficiently to help achieve the organizational mission. Of the myriad types of budget adjustments, one leaders frequently face has to do with selecting a limited number of new […]


Track Investment Using MS Word and R

One key component of implementing Cycle-based Budgeting (CBB) is a technology system that allows the investments to be documented, tracked, and analyzed. Ideally, an online system that connects an institution’s financial data, outcome data, and its strategic plan should be used. Undoubtedly, it is a big and complex task to build, deploy and use such a system, which is probably why no vendor products are currently available in the market that serve the purpose. In JCPS, we developed an online system using the Microsoft SharePoint platform to implement CBB. This system has many nice features that render a good user […]