In this essay, my colleague Dr. Tom Aberli and I discuss three forces that shape and influence district budget decisions. Next, we present how we can build on the existing infrastructure and processes with a new lens and framework to overcome the challenges brought about by those forces. This is a long essay and will be posted in two installments. In this first post, we discuss the three budgetary forces: 1) needs-based framework, 2) existing financial management practice, and 3) human nature. We welcome and appreciate your critiques and suggestions. Every winter, school and district leaders have the daunting task […]
Three years ago, we started working on an IES funded research project in collaboration with Dr. Fiona Hollands at Teachers College of Columbia University and Dr. Robert Shand at American University. The goal was to explore: 1) whether A-ROI metrics, developed as a compromise between rigor and practicality, can be used to improve decision-making regarding education programs, and 2) how to embed A-ROI results into district operations through a Cycle-based Budgeting model. This report shares our lessons learned from that project. https://www.jefferson.kyschools.us/sites/default/files/IES_AROI_Brief_3_Final_Dec_2021.pdf In this report, we talked about how we applied some of the lessons learned when developing a new version of our […]
Major updates were made to the Toolkit page. The page is now organized in five sections: Investment Tracking Tools Implementation Guides Decision Tools Conference Presentations Reports If you’d like to share your investment tracking forms and tools so that colleagues in other districts can benefit from your work, please contact me using the form below. Thanks!
In this article, I explain what end-of-cycle review is about and how leaders can use the process to better manage program implementation and resource allocations. You might find this discussion on some key concepts of Cycle-based Budgeting helpful as a reference. You can also find an end-of-cycle review summary template with two examples on the CBB Toolkit page. End-of-cycle (EOC) is an opportunity created in cycle-based budgeting (CBB) to routinely scrutinize existing investment items for continuation and/or adjustments. When an item reaches its end of investment cycle, two things must take place. One is that the investment must be reviewed […]
THE CURRENT STATE During the annual budget process, one of the most important questions district leaders wrestle with is what new investments should be made to accomplish the district’s improvement priorities. With a few exceptions, the options generally originate from each individual department. First, department heads propose investments to address issues that are thought to be under their respective responsibilities. Then, the proposals are reviewed and decision are made by the superintendent and chief financial officer, with or without the involvement of the other senior leaders on the superintendent’s cabinet depending on the local context and nature of the proposals. […]
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.
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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]