Approach to Developing Best Practices in School Budgeting

Project Description

The fundamental objective of the project will be to create a budget award program that not only recognizes excellence in the budgeting process, but also provides critical resources for implementing enhanced decision making. We will leverage the knowledge of leading academics and practitioners in education budgeting and performance management.

The result of our work will be actionable, realistic, and tangible best practices that PK-12 school districts and community colleges can implement into their budgeting framework, and an award program which recognizes successful use of those best practices.

The project will be conducted in six phases over the next two years to ensure that we can dedicate substantial attention to both the research and development, as well as to the successful implementation of the final criteria into the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. The project timeline is explained in more detail in the following.

Phase 1: Mobilize Resources

The first few months of the project are focused on getting all the technology and human capital resources in place that we will need for a successful project. In March of 2013, we assembled a leading group of researchers and practitioners in public finance and education budgeting. Learn more about the people working on the project on the Project Team page. During Phase 1, we developed our Pilot Program, which will allow us to see our research put into practice and allow us to draw valuable lessons from their experiences before full implementation.

Phase 2: Identify Budgeting Best Practices

By reviewing the most respected literature on the subject and discussing practical challenges that districts and colleges face with our pilot participants, the GFOA will develop highly-effective sets of best practices. We will ultimately arrive at two sets of best practices: one for public PK-12 school districts, and another for community colleges. In assessing each best practice, we’ll ensure it is:

Tangible – The best practice will result in solid, actionable information that practitioners can put to use

Proven – The best practice relies on relatively non-controversial research on how to best align resources to student outcomes

Feasible – The best practice can be implemented without overly burdensome investments in time, money, or technical expertise

Flexible – The best practice is mindful that every district and college has different needs. We want best practices that can be successfully applied in a variety of organizational structures and circumstance.

Translatable – As a secondary objective, we also want to give credit where credit is due. We want a set of best practices that is not only effective, but also allows for objective evaluation. By creating a set of best practices that can be administered within an award program, we’ll be able to give recognition to schools that devote themselves to improved student outcomes through strategic budgeting.  Antithesis

Phase 3: Develop Award Framework

The new award criteria will recognize successful implementation and use of the selected best practices in budget decisions. GFOA will utilize the lessons learned from other award programs to develop identify the best ways for applicants to demonstrate success (e.g. budget documents, effectiveness studies, work papers, etc.).

Phase 4: Field Testing

The Pilot Program will be an integral part of the project’s success. We will partner with five public school districts and five community colleges as they use the best practices we develop in their 2014-2015 budget cycle. We’ll work closely with them throughout the process to understand the impact our best practices are having on their decision making and to identify any enhancements we can make before finalizing the program.

Phase 5: Education & Training

Throughout the project, we will also develop educational and training resources to support the new award program. The training resources will include in-person training, web seminars, example books, and other web resources. We also plan to develop new mediums, such as web-based community forums to connect practitioners, and on-demand e-learning.

Phase 6: Enhance & Implement

The final phase of the project will focus on awareness, credibility, and increasing participation.