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Articles: Budget

Sorting through online resources can be a challenge for districts seeking free comprehensive curriculum or teachers simply searching for supplemental lesson material.

When Tullahoma City Schools administrators started shopping for new social studies textbooks in 2013, they found only a few options aligned to new Tennessee state standards. Rather than wait for newer textbooks to be released, the district embarked on the ambitious project of creating its own.

The new year may send familiar education challenges in new directions as administrators grapple with an uncertain testing landscape, staff shortages, the increased push for equity and constantly increasing charter competition.

Experts expect education budgets in most states to remain flat in 2016. The pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should uphold the current Title I formula (aiding two-thirds of U.S. states) but reduce competitive grants.

Penn Manor School District IT staff and student technology apprentices discuss FLDT, their DIY software imaging program for in-house student laptop management.

Developers created some of the world’s most recognized software in garages and college dorms. The same do-it-yourself spirit thrives today across public education. School innovators customize software that ranges from small applications used within a single classroom to programs that support a district’s full administrative functions.

Schools can bill Medicaid beyond special ed services, for various health assessments and treatments that school nurses or school-based clinics provide daily

Schools can be reimbursed for providing many general health services—a new benefit thanks to a change in federal law.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced the shift in December 2014, but many districts miss out on this source of federal funding that can lead to improvements in student health, experts say.

At Bee Cave Elementary School, students gather around the teacher for story time in one small space, allowing the school to save energy and money in areas of the room that don’t need lighting.

Lighting is often the overlooked energy hog in the room—accounting for 26 percent of the energy used in a typical school. Retrofitting lighting can reduce that by as much as 50 percent, and it's is often simpler and less expensive than upgrading HVAC systems, producing a quick return on investment.

Barbara Blackburn is one of the nation’s foremost authors on student engagement and increasing rigor. Ronald Williamson is a professor of educational leadership at Eastern Michigan University.

Effective professional development is an essential part of every school improvement effort.

Traditionally, the process has included workshops, seminars, courses and conferences. These types of activities have varied in terms of effectiveness and often are quite costly.

Superintendent John Rouse of Rains ISD in Texas is reaping the benefits of a 200-year-old state law.

Superintendent John Rouse sits on a jackpot of sorts—chief of Rains ISD in a community not far from Dallas, he says a little luck helped his district acquire about $8 million. The story starts two centuries ago.

A staff member and students in the Upper Moreland Township School District in Pennsylvania take a walk as part of the intermediate school wellness initiative. The program keeps all staff motivated to be fit and healthy.

Districts are getting creative in how they address the need to rein in costs and still provide employees with good benefits. They can’t resolve some issues, such as the definition of a full-time employee (the Affordable Care Act uses 30 hours). But unconventional thinking is yielding ideas that other districts can learn from.

The average family spends $669 on clothing, electronics and other back-to-school supplies before classes begin each year. And in recent years, more school districts have received a share of the profits.

State-of-the-art science labs, green buildings and internet upgrades are among major trends in school construction this year, as districts break ground on large projects that address aging facilities, increased enrollment and technology needs, according to the first annual DA School Construction Survey.

The above chart, from United Educators’ “2011 Public Schools Claims Report,” shows the dollar cost of claims for each category of bodily injury among district employees across the nation. (Click to enlarge)

A few years ago, San Francisco USD had questions about the hundreds of community-based organizations teaching reading to students and growing school gardens, among a wide range of other activities. Administrators wanted to know the risks of outside groups using school facilities.

Paula Love, the “Funding Doctor,” brings decades of experience to developing grant strategies for state and local educational agencies, schools and institutions.

As students return from summer, school doors open wide to many continuing and emerging challenges. Administrators stand just inside their buildings, facing a changing landscape of diversity, new technologies, urgency over increasing student performance—and major trends in federal education policy, and including:

Students from Richard J. Lee Elementary School, part of Coppell ISD in Dallas, have a lesson in the school garden.

Districts recovering from the recession and in need of new buildings and renovations can save money over time by building net-zero energy schools, architects say.

Superintendent Bob Horan of Schodack CSD offered space to an energy research firm, a business that converts wastewater into electricity and the builders of a solar-powered boat.

Faced with a nearly 40 percent decrease in enrollment and a middle school at 33 percent capacity, Superintendent Bob Horan of Schodack CSD in upstate New York offered empty space to startup companies. 

46 states provide additional funding dedicated to ELL education, says a March report from the Education Commission of the States. (Click to enlarge)

English language learners (ELLs) perform better academically and achieve greater language proficiency when they have high-quality English language instruction, according to a 2014 study in the American Educational Research Journal.

These extra programs require additional funding above the average per-student amount.

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