School-level spending data will likely surface some unexpected (and potentially concerning) patterns, prompting questions about spending equity within districts, and about spending trade-offs. As a trusted resource to parents and teachers, principals will likely be on the front lines fielding questions from their community and considering how they can use this new information to advocate for their students and effectively communicate about their school’s financial data.

Five Questions Principals Can Explore

  • How much is spent per pupil on my school’s students?

  • How does my school’s spending compare to others in the district?
    Breaking down expenditures, such as how much was spent per pupil on instruction or transportation, allows you to draw conclusions about efficiency. “Is my school spending more or less than similar schools on, for example, transportation?”

  • How does my school’s spending compare to similar schools?
    Pairing financial data with student demographic information allows you to make comparisons for equity. “Is my school receiving its fair share of funds based on the students served?”

  • How do my school’s outcomes compare to similar schools?
    Looking at student performance information alongside per-pupil spending allows you to determine which schools are best leveraging their dollars to improve student performance.

  • How can I leverage this data to do the most for my students?

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 school leaders talk about school-level finances with staff, community, and district leaders.

5 Tips to Build Understanding and Trust
The New Focus of Ed Finance: The School
Equipping School Leaders to Spend Wisely
Breaking Down School Budgets

Using School Spending Data To Improve Your School

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

National Association of Secondary School Principals and National Association of Elementary School Principals developed resources in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success for principals to understand their school’s spending data, including FAQs, fact sheets, and tips for principals to engage their community around the results.

Resources for Principals

Have questions? Need research or analysis? 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