With the supply chain delays, labor shortages, escalating costs, and the deadline for ESSER spending looming, school superintendents are facing unique budget challenges. Recent ESSER funding programs have changed the scope and complexity of budget decision making – and increased the visibility and volatility.
To increase the chances for success in times of volatility– leaders need to intentionally strengthen those ingredients that have always been part of the formula or recipe for success in a school district. According to Edweek’s Leaders to Learn From, there are common ingredients that are relevant, powerful, and timeless for school leaders. Reinforcing and systemizing those ingredients can help you work your way through the ESSER budget challenges ahead.
Recipe for Better Budget Decisions
Decision Making Process
How to mix them together:
Data-driven Decision Making Process: How will you explain the why in your decision making of ESSER funds? How can you be a good steward? use appropriately? meet the spending deadlines? How do you remain focused on the North Star of Student Progress? Using a process, like Decision Analysis, can help you focus and clarify your spending goals, identify and organize relevant data and analyze the risks of the decision you make in a clear and transparent process. Transparency is an important foundation for effectively building trust and increasing buy-in.
Communication – How will you explain the why of your decisions using ESSER funds? How will you tell the story of progress and short and long term impacts? Building an intentional communication plan that will ensure communication from start to finish is one way to ensure that this does not get forgotten or ignored when the going gets tough. This article in District Administration, 6 Ways to Tell a Compelling and Effective COVID Recovery Story, highlights some creative ways to share your recovery fund stories.
Collaboration- What problems need to be solved? Who needs to be involved to ensure we make the best possible choices? Whose commitment to a solution do we need? The old adage “two heads are better than one” has never been truer while approaching the complex issues that have arisen over the last two years. Getting the right people in the room, to provide expertise and perspective should be an essential first step to developing your budget. Working as a team, empowering colleagues builds strong relationships, trust, and buy-in.
Tips for Getting Good Results
Like any good recipe – you can add some of your own flavor and tweak your budgeting processes to fit your needs, but sharpening communication, facilititating collaboration and using a good solid decision-making process will help ensure that dollars are being used in meaningful ways that you can clearly communicate and demonstrate. Using a collaborative and quality decision making process heightens transparency and helps build trust and commitment to the solution. When all is said and done, you want to know that you can stand behind decisions that were made about ESSER funding and that you have results you can proudly share.