Weighted student funding (WSF) decentralizes control over resources and empowers principals as financial leaders of their schools. In this study, we set out to understand how principals are making use of those leadership opportunities. Based upon a 2017-18 survey of 639 principals in 14 school districts implementing WSF, we find that principals are actively engaged in the budget process and utilize their flexibilities, but often do not come into their role with the financial leadership training to carry out those tasks. Among the findings:
- Principals understand how WSF works and why their district is using it
- Principals in WSF districts take the lead on budget decisions for their schools
- Principals in WSF districts involve school-level stakeholders often left out of the budget development process
- Principals in WSF districts customize spending for their school community
- Many principals lack formal training to fully leverage the benefits of WSF
While our results capture some of the variability in principals’ experiences across WSF districts, more research is needed to understand how these results are shaped by the diversity of rationales motivating districts to adopt WSF, as well as continued evolution of WSF within and across districts.