Afton develops student-based budget model at one of the largest school districts in the country to improve school-level autonomy, financial transparency, and resource equity
Over the course of two years, Afton Partners completed an engagement to realign financial resources to better meet student needs at the Chicago Public Schools, a major urban school district serving 400,000 students. The initiative, Student Based Budgeting, entailed working closely with the district’s management team to develop a per-pupil funding model that could be integrated into wider district reform efforts.
The goal of our work was to provide district principals more flexibility in allocating instructional funding at individual schools. The effort also increased resource equity and financial transparency, in particular by including the district’s 100+ charter schools in the uniform funding formula.
Afton designed and delivered analytical tools that allow the district to model current and proposed distribution of funding. We facilitated a comprehensive transformational change program, supporting CPS in all areas of the project, including policy development, communications, systems, and training. Afton also helped the district develop internal structures and supports necessary to implement and sustain such funding methodologies, integrating them into the district’s annual planning and budgeting cycle with involvement of district academic and fiscal team members.
Afton continued to support Chicago Public Schools during the following school year to expand and improve upon the first year’s implementation of Student Based Budgeting. Children First Fund received funding from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation for this project.
Student-based budgeting is just as much an academic team initiative as it is a financial initiative. This work requires change across the entire school system, and as such it requires broad-based support and involvement during both planning and implementation. Find your Academic Team and School Leader “champions” who can most effectively communicate and advocate for the work with their peers.
Thoroughly understand the impact of your decisions. Throughout this work, we modeled the impact of all potential decisions in “real-time”, ensuring school-level impact was understood by decision-makers and stakeholders, and eliminating potentially contentious surprises at roll-out.
Think ahead to implementation. Having a thoroughly developed and transparent implementation plan eases the transition. Budgeting changes touch nearly every aspect of schools, so ensure there is effective communication with all stakeholders, and proper training for those who need it.