Series: School Site Councils & Your School’s Budget 2/3

WHAT do they decide?

With school site budget cuts (sadly) in play thanks to the district-wide budget deficit, more parents are going to want to know who decides on the budget for your school.

This is part two of an SF Parents series over a few weeks breaking down the elements of the School Plan for Student Achievement, aka, the student academic and wellness plan that every SFUSD is required to make every year.

If you want to know how the big money is being spent at your school, and what the priorities and strategies are (e.g., what’s your reading program, math intervention program, etc), this is the place to look. That said, like any government doc, it’s not exactly accessible to anyone who doesn’t love wading through acronyms and general ledger speak. Hence, this series.

We’re using the SF Community Alternative K-8 SPSA as an example plan–shout out to SF Community!

This week: WHAT is the basis of your School Site Council’s budget? These are huge decisions, impacting every kid in the school, so it behooves everyone to know. Read the captions of the images to see the breakdown of how you can decode your own school’s plan, and then check out an overview and link to the full plan for every school here.

In Section 3 of the School Plan for Student Achievement, the School Site Council is asked to review existing student data and then identify what the school should focus on improving, and why. (There are a number of other sections of the report that takes this basic idea and translates it into school district speak; you can ignore those sections.) Not surprisingly, if the basic premise of what needs attention at the school is faulty or otherwise lacking in some way, everything else else in the plan will be troubled, too (not suggesting this is the case for SF Community’s plan!). Influencing this premise section is an easy way to get involved with your School Site Council, if you’re not already. Does the premise match what you see kids experiencing at school? Remember: this is where the budget money will get prioritized.

Further down in Section 3, the premise from above gets translated into what will be become the budget line items. Do these items match the premise and/or your understanding of the best ways to solve focus challenges? What Works Clearinghouse is a wonderful resource for researching evidence-based best practices.

In Section 4, we get into brass tacks. This is the section where your school commits to specific student outcomes AND spells out the strategy they’ll use to achieve those outcomes. Are these targets reasonable? Ambitious enough? Meaningful? Do these strategies actually work–for the kids you know, and according to evidence-based practices?

In Section 5, the School Site Council is asked to hold itself accountable to past plans. This is the place to note whether the plan has been exactly the same for five years running, etc, or has been making a significant impact for students. If your plan is the same year-to-year and makes no measurable impact for students, you’ll want to ask why–especially with budget cuts coming.