Are you wasting money? 5 ways to maximize your school budget

It’s officially budget season and that comes with tons of excitement, planning, and some worries. Master schedule, hiring, prep periods, non-personnel supplies oh my.

You have to make those dollars stretch like Mr. Fantastic.

But, slow down speed racer.

If equity is your mission and social justice your vision, consider this:

5 ways to Maximize your Budget

  1. Fund your priorities
    Pick an equity issue such as the raising the proficiency of your English Learners. How can you spend money on that priority? Sure, you can always fund additional teachers, but consider playing for professional development, intervention curricula, or classroom furniture. You might want to pay for a retreat to unify your staff and develop common academic expectations.
  2. Create learning experiences for staff
    Send teachers to conferences such as PBL World, Teacher’s College Readers Writers WorkshopCulturally Responsive Teaching Foundational Seminar, or Teaching with a Cultural Eye. Are there funds you can set aside for subs for teachers to visit other schools, collaborate to plan a cross-curricular project or start a Professional Learning Community?
  3. Read and discuss your learning
    Select a book, buy 30 copies, and pay your teachers to read it during the summer. We read Culturally Responsive Teaching, and our Librarian led a book club on Pushout.
  4. Spend money on your focal students
    It’s one thing to fund instructional supplies for all, but what can you do to target your focal groups. Can you explicitly leave funds for African American students, perhaps novels that feature AA students as main characters? Can you purchase reading intervention materials and audiobooks for your students in Special Education? Can you set money aside for girls in your Robotics Club to take a field trip to a Maker Faire?
  5. Climate change costs money
    Are you spending as much money on your climate as instruction? Students need more than rules posted on the walls and lunchtime detentions. You can reward students with school store prizes, t-shirts, guest speakers, and smoothie parties. You can buy new sports equipment for lunch, murals, plants for your garden, or trophies for the demonstration of your school value. You could even fund a PBIS or Restorative Practices Coordinator.

Hack your budget

At our school, we were planning to bring in Project Based Learning (PBL) through a partnership with the New Tech Network. To start, we paid $250 for a sub so that we could visit a school doing PBL. Then we got funding from the district to send 9 staff to the NTAC conference in St. Louis, where everyone got baseline training. Flash forward a year and we are expanding PBL to our school and allocating more funds for next year. $250 went a long way!

Pitfalls and lessons learned

  • Don’t buy literacy books before you have a teacher identified or trained to use them
  • Don’t wait until next year to buy items you need for the start of the year
  • Track your budget internally
  • Set funds aside so teachers don’t have to spend their own funds
  • Ask students what they want
  • Connect it to data and set some measurable goals
  • Books, furniture, technology, and consultant take FOREVER and a day to finalize and arrive.
  • There can always be more training and teacher always deserve more money

A Resource

Here’s a link to an SFUSD budget calculator to plan out funds and see patterns.


What are you considering when building your budget?