As school boards work with local educators to continue instruction in a remote environment, they also must continue to perform the business functions of the school district. School boards typically
- oversee the academic, legal, and financial health of a district;
- set governing policies;
- determine how funds are spent; and
- represent the public interest to serve the diverse needs of the community
For most school boards, annual budget development occurs in the winter/spring. It is exceedingly difficult this year as many districts face immense uncertainty around funding. The majority of public school funding derives from state and local sources. According to Education Week, approximately 48 percent of a school’s budget comes from state resources, including income taxes, sales tax, and fees. Local sources account for 44 percent of funding primarily through property taxes. With “stay-at-home orders” the public is not buying goods and services, thus not generating sales tax revenues and fees to support state and local governments. Additionally, some states are deferring income tax and property tax payments. School boards must continue to move forward and make budget decisions without having a clear understanding of anticipated state and local revenue contributions.
The Future Ready Schools® School Boards budget and resources gear recommends the following for school boards:
“Upon recommendation by the superintendent, adopt budgets that align with strategic and tactical short- and long-term plans while working to eliminate expenses that no longer support the district’s vision.“
During the COVID-19 pandemic, school boards continue to work with their district on strategic fiscal planning. All districts are anticipating reduced funding and reallocation of resources. Short- and long-term projects may be put on hold or cancelled to free up funds for internet hot spots, devices, or professional development for remote learning. Although there is much uncertainty, school boards must forge ahead to develop budgets for the next school year.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, administrators in East Penn School District provided in-depth presentations to the school board around district priorities. Instead of focusing on those priorities, school board members in conjunction with district leaders must now deal with significant funding shortages and adjust their priorities. In this current climate, “a lot of districts are in crisis,” says Adam Smith, East Penn school board member. “Funding shortages for school districts in Pennsylvania could range from a few million dollars to over $10 million, depending upon the school district.”
In Florida Union Free School District, New York, in addition to implementing remote learning now, the school board, superintendent, and state board of education are engaged in on-going communication around the future of learning in the district. The district is balancing current remote learning needs, while strategizing on what learning looks like when schools reopen whether it is later this year or in the fall.
“It is our job as the school board to keep the business of the school district moving forward,” says Sue Wheeler, Florida Union Free School District school board member. “We are continuing with our regular schedule for board meetings to make difficult academic and fiscal choices for our students.”
Along with the rest of the world, school boards are learning how to conduct remote meetings. East Penn School District is utilizing a webinar-type setup with the superintendent as host and school board members as panelists. “The structure is not too different from actual face-to-face meetings,” says Smith. “The school board conducts its business in a transparent environment where the public can view our actions in real time.” It is important to note that soliciting public feedback and comments is difficult during remote meetings and that school boards are working on how best to address this issue.
While school boards across the country are working with their local districts to address the unique learning challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, they also are continuing to conduct the business of the district. School boards and district leaders are moving forward to develop budgets and spending plans for the upcoming school year while also considering contingency plans for remote learning in the future.
This blog is supported by Konica Minolta. Learn more about their unique approach to partnership for supporting districts with the implementation of digital learning goals.