By Scott Milam and Carrie Stewart

The academic challenges facing America’s public schools are well documented. They’re equaled by mounting financial ones. Districts nationwide are struggling to align academic planning and strategies with available resources.

To address these challenges, schools and districts must move beyond traditional budgeting and accounting practices focused simply on compliance with funding sources. Instead, they must implement methods and performance measures that better align resources to academic objectives while ensuring longer-term financial sustainability.

Every school district that wants to drive student success and every school funder or social venture investor that wants to enable long-lasting reform must start with this critical step: an examination of how to better use existing resources to ensure effectiveness and long-term viability of its education programs.

At Afton Partners, our short-hand for this is financial sustainability for schools. Our goal is to elevate the role of district and CMO finance personnel to become critical enabling partners with school leaders and central academic leadership. Academics and finance must be jointly accountable for aligning spending with academic goals and planning, ultimately developing meaningful return on investment.

With more meaningful data on the effectiveness of resource allocation, school administrators will be able to leverage funds to invest in and grow more efficient, high-performing schools and school models. Once a high-performing model is in place, it becomes more readily replicable at other schools, in turn offering increased capital-raising opportunities to fund successful programs.

Ultimately, by instituting sustainable structures and practices that focus more on the integration of academic and financial decision-making, less on compliance and traditional accounting and more on activity and services by student need, districts and funders can gain more insight toward how investments in certain activities and programs impact academic performance.

At Afton, we promote financial practices that can endure, strategies that encourage better use of scant resources, and that can be leveraged—school by school, district by district—to improve public education across the country. To learn more about our work, please browse our site.

Carrie Stewart and Scott Milam are co-founders of Afton Partners. Carrie is based in Chicago; Scott is based in Washington, DC.