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School-Based Budget Decision Making with District-Facilitated Support

Providing school leaders with school-based autonomy for budgeting


With the adoption of a new district-wide vision and anticipated state-level funding changes on the horizon, district leaders at Hopkins Public Schools wanted to ensure greater funding equity across schools through a more predictable school funding model as well as give site leaders more flexibility and ownership. As Ann Ertl, Interim Director of Innovation, Design, and Learning, shared, "Our budget needs to serve as a moral document for who we are and what we do.” This thought process pushed the district to provide school leaders with increased autonomy on school-based budgets with guidance from the central office.

"As principals grow into their autonomy, we're also providing them, in the form of thought partnering, more support to figure out how they want to use funds, to what purpose, and to see how it all makes sense together. We guide them to see how you pair that with your plan for achievement and integration, with your building goals, and with your reimagining goals, and to see how we get all of those arrows going in the same direction." - Ann Ertl, Interim Director of Innovation, Design, and Learning - Hopkins Public Schools


Hopkins’ cabinet team used an improvement science process to analyze system drivers of spending and how they did or did not connect to goals. It became clear that the district would need to focus on pursuing proactive change and "doing differently with less." In the past, school budgeting was based on current expenditure levels, and they realized that a shift would need to be made to ensure schools were receiving funds based on actual enrollment. At the same time, the district wanted to ensure that site leaders had the flexibility to use their budgets in ways that supported their instructional visions, so central office staff shifted much of their leadership and decision-making power to principals. Rather than providing concrete parameters around school staffing models, class sizes, and budgets, central office staff supported school leaders with coaching to help them build autonomy around making decisions for their schools based on the needs of their staff and students.

This strategy is a part of TLA's Hop, Skip, Leapfrog release, which explores the concrete ways in which schools and systems pursued student-centered innovation during COVID-19. Explore the full guide to find additional strategies, insights, and resources.

Strategy Resources

Hopkins Public Schools Student Support Specialist (Paraprofessional) Job Description

A document outlining a job description for a Student Support Specialist, also listed as a... Learn More