Leah Hamilton: Empowering Schools Through Greater Flexibility

Grantees in this story


new report from Education Resource Strategies (ERS) shows the power of Student-Based Budgeting (also called Fair Student Funding), one essential tactic that districts use to empower school leaders. ERS, a Carnegie Corporation grantee, is a leading organization in helping school districts and states think about the implications and strategy behind how they spend their funds. Implemented in cities like New York, Baltimore, Denver, and Cleveland, Student-Based Budgeting allows funds to follow students and their needs.

ERS explains in this helpful guide for district leaders and policymakers, many districts do not allow funding to follow the student. Instead, principals are assigned a set number of staff and other resources based on district-wide policy, and principals generally have discretion over less than 5% of the school budget. In districts that implement Student-Based Budgeting, principals control between 40% and 80% of their own budgets, allowing them to implement innovative school designs by making choices about curriculum and other learning resources, support staff, and enriching partnerships with external organizations.

This is the kind of flexibility and empowerment that we need to see if we want school districts across the U.S. to take steps toward structuring themselves in innovative ways, and to create conditions that allow school leaders more autonomy in how they can make choices that put student needs and learning at the center of the decision-making process. Low-performing, inflexible systems have no power to transform the lowest-performing schools. Faced with this challenge, the redesign of education systems is essential to create, scale, and support schools that can help all students learn in the way that works best for them, and graduate ready for college and career.

Read ERS’s report here.