A decision support framework for district administrators

Eight big questions to guide strategic evaluation of programs and initiatives for K-12 budget planning.

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ESSER funds have played an important role for districts over the past two years. Across the country, districts have used their ESSER dollars to hire faculty and staff, provide new programs and initiatives, and to improve school infrastructure. The fact that students, teachers and community members have benefited from and become reliant on new programs and staff shows that districts have invested these funds well—but it also makes the process of scaling back when the grant period ends more difficult.


How can districts determine which programs and positions to phase out and which to build into their yearly budgets? This decision making rubric is designed to help districts prepare to navigate the difficult choices and conversations they will face as ESSER funds expire in 2024. 


What are students getting out of the program? 

1. Is this program well established?


  • How many schools are using the program?
  • Was the program implemented well and is it running smoothly?
  • Is the program deeply integrated into school culture? Would scaling it back affect other aspects of school staffing or operations?
  • Do stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, principals) feel invested in the program? Would scaling back affect trust or morale?



2. Does the program have meaningful participation?


  • Of the students that have access, what percentage are using it?
  • Of participating students, how many are from underserved or underrepresented groups or have different educational needs?



3. What value does the program provide?


  • Have teachers reported that the program is improving student behavior/academics/motivation/engagement/social skills?
  • Are other programs or initiatives offering similar opportunities or working to achieve similar outcomes?
  • Is the program targeted at underserved student groups?
  • Consider using data on student attendance rates and discipline, teacher satisfaction levels, or school climate as indicators of program value if you don't have reliable student achievement measures

4. What can we learn from key stakeholders?


Ask principals, teachers, and students about programs.


Teachers can tell you ...

  • What students are getting out of the program academically, socially, emotionally, motivationally​
  • Whether the program eases teacher burdens​


School leaders can tell you​ ...

  • If the program improves the school learning environment​
  • If the program fulfills a unique need or overlaps with other programs​


Students/parents can tell you​ ...

  • How engaged students are with the program​
  • How invested students feel in the program​

Can the district justify keeping the program?

5. Is the ongoing investment justifiable from a cost perspective?


  • What is the total cost of the program?
  • Are program expenses likely to increase significantly year over year?
  • How do the per-pupil costs of this program compare to others?
  • Does this program place outsize demands on staff or leadership time and effort?



6. Is this program in strategic alignment with your district's goals?


  • Is the program related to a specific priority in your strategic plan?
  • Is the program aligned to your mission and vision?

Is change politically feasible?

7. Is this a mandated program?


  • Is there a local, state, or federal mandate that requires us to operate the program?
  • Is this required by the board or contractually mandated?



8. Has your district strengthened stakeholder buy-in and minimized resistance to change?


  • Has the district sought input from departments, building leaders, and other school staff?
  • Has the district sought input from students, parents, and other community members?
  • Has the district involved internal employees with strong ties to the program (program sponsors, champions, staff) in discussions and decisions?
  • Has the district communicated with internal and external stakeholders early and often about the end of the grant period and plans for scaling back?



Finally, education finance software designed for school districts to allocate, budget, and manage resources—efficiently and equitably. Allovue shares information with your ERP to make managing resources more dynamic, accessible, and collaborative. 


Districts across the nation work with Allovue to budget resources and manage spending. Curious to see what this looks like? Check out this graphic to journey along a sample K-12 finance cycle to see how districts achieve strategic initiatives and improve efficiency with Allovue. 


Create easy-to-update resource allocation formulas that direct dollars to schools.


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