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Time to Change the District Budget Dance

BY debraabritt
Association of School Business Officials International logo

Marguerite Roza
Published in the November 2022 issue of ASBO's School Business Affairs magazine

The school district budget dance—the process of developing and passing a budget every year—usually runs on something approaching autopilot. There’s a series of choreographed moves with the same rehearsal schedule and the same cast year after year, with built-in deference to continuing whatever was done the year before. The process kicks off in the fall and culminates late in the spring when the school board votes on a spreadsheet that officially becomes next year’s spending plan. 

Mostly, these budgets look a lot like the previous year’s, even when districts face long-standing challenges, including chronic low performance or frustrating spending inequities. In fact, it’s that inertia that can be the most infuriating, when known problems go years without being addressed.

Here, Marguerite Roza calls out what’s missing in the current process and urges leaders to include equity and performance data in every step of next year’s budget dance.

Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of School Business Affairs magazine and is reprinted with permission of the Association of School Business Officials International ( The text herein does not necessarily represent the views or policies of ASBO International, and use of this imprint does not imply any endorsement or recognition by ASBO International and its officers or affiliates.


RELATED TOOL: District leaders can use “The Grid” to assess investments by calculating the per-student costs and spelling out the desired results, the risks involved, and how effectiveness will be measured.


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