District Leaders2023-02-22T00:08:29+00:00

School-level spending data will likely surface some unexpected (and potentially troubling) patterns within districts, prompting questions about spending inequities across schools as parents, principals, advocates, and media try to understand which schools get what and why. While this new data presents a host of challenges for school districts, it also presents an incredible opportunity to communicate openly and honestly, solicit input, and build trust around district budgeting and spending practices.

Get Your Principals Involved

Parents and teachers trust their principals over district and state leaders on issues related to money, so principals should be prepared to effectively and transparently communicate about their school’s financial data.

Districts should include principals in budget decisions and as trusted messengers for communicating spending decisions with teachers, families, and community.

Questions Superintendents, School Boards and Central Office Staff Can Explore

Now’s a good time to look at spending by school in your district. Examine how state and local dollars are spent across schools serving your highest-needs students and consider if any district policies or practices are shortchanging any students and schools. Federal dollars should layer on top of state and local spending, driving additional resources to schools serving highest-needs students.

Array schools from lowest to highest state/local per-pupil spending. On which school does the district spend the most per pupil (in state/local funds)?  Least per pupil?  Why? (E.g., what is driving the difference?)  Does per-student spending at any school stand out as unexpected? Do higher-needs schools get appropriately higher levels of resources?

Group schools by percent poverty and/or percent minority. Among elementary schools, does the district allocate less/same/or more of its state/local dollars to its schools with more students in poverty? How about for schools with more students of color? Why? How about across middle and high schools? Note that federal funds are intended to be layered on top of an equitable allocation of state/local funds.


Group schools by level. Does the district spend more on elementary, middle, or high schools?  Why?


If the district has any obvious regions or school types, is spending fair across regions?

We do not have an example analysis yet!  Send us yours edunomics@georgetown.edu.

Do teacher salary differences drive any of the patterns identified in spending per student by student type, school type/size or school location?


 What percentage of an average school’s resources is attributed to the school site’s share of central?  Does that seem high?


Does the district spend more or less on smaller schools?  Why?


Compare spending and outcomes data across schools with similar demographics.


Explore spending and outcomes data to uncover innovative or effective spending practices. Compare total expenditures for each school, some expenditure detail by major function or object and/or by major program (Special Education, English Learner programs, etc.), student demographics, and student performance by school and student type.

We do not have any example analyses yet. Send us yours edunomics@georgetown.edu.

How to Talk About Money

Understanding school finance is one thing. Effectively communicating about it is another skill entirely. Here are a few resources to help district leaders and school board members talk about school-level finances with staff, community, and other district leaders.

Five Tips to Inspire Trust
The New Focus of Ed Finance: The School
Presentation to School Superintendents

When THIS Happens…Here is What You Can Say

Using School Spending Data to Improve Schools

Typically, schooling has been measured on student outcomes alone. This activity offers a set of exercises designed to help education leaders better understand the relationship between spending and student performance—and position them to use emerging data to explore opportunities for productivity in their day-to-day work improving education.

A Role Playing Activity

More Resources

Equipping School Leaders to Spend Wisely
Breaking Down School Budgets
An Introduction to Student Based Allocation
What School Boards Should Know

Have questions? Need research or analyses? Edunomics Lab can provide assistance or recommend expert support and other resources. Contact Deb Britt at Edunomics@georgetown.edu for more information.

Get smarter on how to use financial data with Georgetown University’s Certificate in Education Finance.

Certificate in Education Finance