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

WHAT is the budget?

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 three 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 actual school 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.

Section 6 of your school’s School Plan for Student Achievement breaks down the school’s budget into specific numbers. The budget section is fairly confusing because it’s parsed out in SFUSD budget codes and categories, but a good rule of thumb is that if your school is paying for it as a special intervention, it should be in this section–somewhere. Also, the items in Section 6 should be what was recommended in the previous sections. For example, this is a snapshot of SF Community Alternative K-8’s “Categorial Expenses” budget items. Confused as to what that means? You’re not alone. We strongly suggest that your School Site Council asks your principal to see a more traditional budget spreadsheet as part of the development and review of this section of your school’s SPSA. Often times, you will need at least an hour to go through that document together, line by line, to understand all the acronyms and SFUSD expectations for how things should be categorized. If you’re used to looking at a PTSA budget, this will initially look far more off-putting, but is crucial to understand what is happening at your school. Also, as a final tip, work with any PTAs/Parent Associations, etc at your school to develop and disseminate an overall budget document. Do not assume that the folks running your PTSAs have any of this information.

Further down in Section 6, you’ll see a category of “Central Supports & Resources.” The same advice holds for understanding this section as the one above: get thee a traditional spreadsheet budget doc and compare. In addition, we strongly suggest that School Site Councils develop and include a glossary of terms (e.g., IRF, VAPA, etc) to share with the rest of the school community, as well as their successors on the council.
Good luck and thanks for reading this series!