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Articles: Budget

Students from Bronzeville Scholastic Institute High School in Chicago use refurbished computers, saving on technology costs for the district.

District CIOs looking to save money on computers are increasingly turning to refurbished technology. Buying preowned equipment puts more devices in the hands of students and keeps old machines out of landfills.

District leaders seeking to acquire more technology must decide whether purchasing or leasing is more cost-effective.

As the economy continues its slow crawl out of the recession, school districts that had put off capital purchases are now replacing outdated equipment and buying new technology. However, administrators are still considering large-scale acquisitions with caution.

Booster club members attend a session presented by the National Booster Club Training Council.

Sports teams in a growing number of school districts can only return to their fields, gymnasiums, rinks and pools each September with the support of parent-run booster clubs. As budgets tighten, these clubs, which have provided high school athletes with everything from uniforms to scoreboards to travel money for competitions or games, are expanding into elementary and middle schools.

Superintendent Joshua Starr of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland crouches to speak with students in class. He is determined to support student programs during lean budget times.

Five years after the Great Recession officially ended, many superintendents continue to grapple with educating today’s students and preparing for tomorrow’s—with yesterday’s funding levels. The worst recession since the Great Depression lasted from December of 2007 to June of 2009, according to the federal government, and many superintendents are only now starting to glimpse limited financial relief.

Renovations at the North Shore Central School District in Sea Cliff, N.Y. include updating an elementary school playground. Designers BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers are also performing facade repairs and an auditorium renovation.
Auburn High School (above) summer renovations included a cafeteria expansion, new windows, HVAC improvements and paving.
A field house addition at Guilford High School (above right) will include three full-size athletic courts, a running track and a weight room.
At Guilford High School, renovations include an updated auditorium, new windows and HVAC upgrades.

The beginning of the school year brings new construction projects in many districts, including Rockford Public Schools in Illinois and North Shore Central School District in New York.

At Rockford Public Schools, a district of 28,000 students in Illinois, all four of the district’s high schools were under heavy construction over the summer that will continue throughout the school year.

Ulrich Boser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress

School districts that spend more per pupil do not necessarily perform better, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.

After examining more than 7,000 districts nationwide, researchers found that only 37 percent of the districts in the top third in spending were also in the top third in achievement.

Joplin Public Schools in Missouri opened the doors to the brand new Joplin High School/Franklin Technology Center on Aug. 25.
The school includes four student/staff safe rooms and one community safe room that provide shelter during severe weather.
The high school includes windows and glass throughout the building to allow everyone to see the learning in progress.
There are flexible learning spaces throughout the campus to support a 21st-century learning focus on collaborative work and student-led study. Above is a rendering of the new cafeteria.
The school's new 2,500-seat gymnasium.
The school's new entryway.

Joplin Public Schools in Missouri opened the doors to the brand new Joplin High School/Franklin Technology Center on Aug. 25.

The original high school, along with a technical school, two elementary schools and a middle school, was destroyed in May 2011 after a tornado devastated the area.

Though physical book collections are shrinking in many districts, the role of librarians or media specialists is expanding.

About one-third of public schools do not have a full-time, state-certified librarian.

Members of the American Library Association call it a national crisis, as colleges and careers increasingly require students to have expansive digital literacy skills. Some 20 percent of public school libraries do not have any full- or part-time state-certified librarians, according to a 2013 report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Nathan Levenson, senior managing director of the District Management Council, says school budgets will continue to be tight in coming years.

District budgets are likely to be tight for years to come, experts say—and a new report outlines strategies administrators can use to spend wisely during financially constrained times. “Spending Money Wisely: Getting the Most from School District Budgets,” published in May, compiles savings tips recommended by superintendents, think tanks and professors.

Architects who built a new El Dorado High School in Arkansas in 2011 realized using wood, instead of steel, in the construction of the hallways could save the district millions of dollars.
Wood also was used in El Dorado High School's 450-seat theater.
Students and community members recently celebrate the groundbreaking of a new elementary school in the Northwest Community School District in Jackson, Mich., where no construction bonds had been passed for four decades.
Carmichaels Junior/Senior High School in Pennsylvania will have energy-efficient lighting and heating after this year’s renovations and expansion.
The Delmar Fieldhouse in Houston ISD was recently demolished to make way for new construction under a $1.89 billion school construction bond.
A crew at Worthing High School in Houston ISD begins work on a new school under a construction bond that covers 40 projects districtwide.

Safety, flexibility and energy efficiency are the forces driving new school construction as administrations create buildings to rival college facilities to prepare students for the technology-driven world they will find in college and the workforce.

A tornado safe room under construction in Moore, Oklahoma.

Tornadoes sweeping through parts of the nation and destroying schools are leading district leaders to create “safe rooms” for increased protection.

In May 2013, Moore, Okla., was hit by a tornado that destroyed two elementary schools and killed seven students. Moore Public Schools is rebuilding the schools with four safe rooms designed to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria to provide protection during tornadoes.

With new, smarter building technology to control energy use, school leaders can reduce their carbon footprint and use the money saved to fund projects that may have suffered from budget cuts. U.S. schools spend more on energy than they do “on computers and textbooks combined,” according to a past report by Energy Star.

“As much as 30 percent of a district’s total energy is used inefficiently or unnecessarily,” the report states.

Preschool students in the Granite School District receive Common Core-aligned instruction to prepare for kindergarten.

High-quality preschools in a Utah district began receiving funds from a first-of-its-kind, $4.6 million social impact bond from investment banking firm Goldman Sachs last fall. The goal is to improve instruction in order to prevent students from needing special education or remedial services.

Superintendent Garza speaks with an elementary student. Garza hopes to reduce achievement gaps between white students and minority students.

When Superintendent Karen Garza started her job at Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia last July, she had barely unpacked when she found a perfect storm of budget planning: increased enrollment, deferred retirement system contributions and a major uptick in students needing ESOL services.

The documentary Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District moves between schools in Pasadena USD in California to give the public a glimpse of an average day for students and teachers.
The film is meant to give the public a glimpse of an average day for students and teachers.
"Go Public" is drawing national attention from communities that want to screen the film.

Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District is a recently-released documentary film about Pasadena USD that shows the challenges, triumphs and personalities of a moderate-sized public school system.