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Articles: Budget

This past summer, a number of districts broke ground and got to work . (Photo: Gettyimages.com/martin barraud)

Districts and government agencies spend nearly $50 billion every year on school construction projects across the U.S.

This past summer, a number of districts broke ground and got to work while many others, with their projects still in the planning phase, approved funds for new buildings, upgrades and repairs.

The Lafayette Parish School System was granted E-Rate funds to fully upgrade the district and to provide 1-to-1 devices to students by 2020.

E-Rate funds kept at least one district connected to the internet through testing—and opened the door for a 1-to-1 initiative rolling out this fall.

The Lafayette Parish School System in Louisiana used to restrict internet access, only granting certain streaming websites to teachers by request. For example, music teachers would be the only ones with access to streaming music—locking out others in the district. And during state testing, schools would disable streaming to ensure exams were not affected.

Glenn E. Gustafson is chief financial officer and Jessica Reijgers is employee benefits manager for Colorado Springs District 11.

School districts have struggled for many years with the escalating cost of healthcare. Do you have to reduce benefits to be affordable? Do you have to shift costs between the district and the employee? Is there a better way? In Colorado Springs School District 11, we think we have found one.

Kits to books: Just a few items that a fifth-grade math and science teacher  at River Valley Elementary in the West Ada School District received from crowdfunding sites.

While auditing New Hanover County Schools in North Carolina, Nancy Braswell noticed assets coming into the district from unfamiliar sources. When she investigated, Braswell found that teachers were turning to a variety of companies and nonprofits to help fund classroom resources through social media.

Big high school football stadiums in Texas have come under scrutiny from local fiscal watchdogs, but pushback is just part of the story about sports facility finance—where expenditures and potential revenue sources have grown more complex and potentially lucrative.

Plan divides the schools into an “old” district—a legal entity which will pay down debt over time—and a new debt-free district known as the Detroit Public Schools Community District, which will be given a $150 million startup loan from the state.

A 2014 study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory examined five districts using propane in their bus fleets, and some saved nearly 50 percent on a cost-per-mile basis for fuel and maintenance. (Photo: Gettyimages.com/Leekris)

Transitioning to eco-friendly propane school buses may help districts save money and safeguard student health. A propane bus costs about $15,000 more than a diesel vehicle, but is less expensive to operate and maintain.

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

The Every Student Succeeds Act reverses the trend of federal authority over K12 education. The new law returns state and local authority to levels that have not been seen in decades—and one of biggest changes is that ESSA increases fund transferability for key federal programs.

A successful partnership with a transportation contractor, above, can give a district administrator more time to focus on educating.

Xenia Community Schools in Ohio faced a crisis in 2012 that forced administrators to slash $10 million from its annual budget. The district signed a five-year contract with a transportation contractor and saved $458,000. Still, such a move can be a challenging—and sometimes controversial—issue for many districts.

Danae Davis, executive director of Milwaukee Succeeds, reads to a class at Milwaukee Public Schools.

Urban districts struggling with budget cuts can increasingly look to foundations, nonprofits and private companies for support in driving district success efforts—from enhancing instruction to expanding healthcare to boosting college preparation.

The Technology for Education Consortium found that the cost for the same iPad can vary, depending on the district.

The education technology market might have become easier for district leaders to navigate, thanks in part to a new nonprofit group, Technology for Education Consortium. Leaders can share their spending limits on certain tech devices, and the consortium produces reports about pricing around the country.

Guthrie Virtual School provides state-mandated Spanish instruction to about a half-dozen remote Texas towns that couldn’t afford to hire a full-time certified teacher.

Forced to make grade reconfigurations, Island Trees School District in New York created Michael Stokes Elementary School, for grades 2 through 4, above, out of a K4 elementary school building to save money and to use staff more efficiently.

School leaders nationwide are exploring innovative group-level groupings and thinking beyond the typical K5 elementary school, grades 6 through 8 middle school and grades 9 through 12 high school model to figure out how to continue to deliver appropriate education with fewer funds.

  • The Duval County School Board reconceived six schools to focus on early learning, autism, arts, military leadership and advanced studies.

Last summer, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti spearheaded the program and boundary changes to improve low performance and offer stronger educational options to attract students back to traditional public schools.

The Upsala Area School District in Minnesota created incentives that have enticed teachers like Heather Johnson, from Upsala Elementary School, to retire when the school year ends.

For many districts, early retirement incentives are considered a good business practice—a way to cut top-heavy payrolls and replace teachers whose heart may no longer be in the classroom. But without good planning, these incentives can have unintended financial and academic costs. 

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