Sacramento, CA – On Friday, January 27, 2017, Pivot Learning, an Oakland based non-profit, presented the first-year results of the California Smarter School Spending initiative at the annual Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) Research and Policy Conference. The Smarter School Spending model is an innovative approach to district budgeting that helps districts and charters to build strategic finance plans, find the money necessary to support their students and teachers and create more meaningful Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs).
Pivot CEO Arun Ramanathan, Ed.D. participated in a panel with district leaders Stefanie Phillips, Superintendent of Santa Ana Unified School District, and Myong Leigh, Interim Superintendent of San Francisco Unified School District, both of whom use the Smarter School Spending approach, to talk about the model and its benefits. Last year, Pivot partnered with five districts in California—Santa Ana Unified, San Francisco Unified, Tracy Unified, Pomona Unified, and Hayward Unified—on the Smarter School Spending initiative.
Using the Smarter School Spending process, Pivot and the districts identified almost $9M in potential cost savings to meet instructional goals. Tracy Unified alone located $2.1 of new revenue to potentially support their commitment to improving early literacy and ensuring 9th grade success, which are their key priorities to impact student achievement.
Brian Stephens, Ed.D., Superintendent of Tracy Unified, believes the Smarter School Spending process is vital to mobilizing districts to carry the work through from concept to program implementation. Dr. Stephens states, “Even if this work were to end tomorrow, the fundamental way we work together as a district has changed, and this collaboration will be felt for years to come.”
While California districts have received budget increases over the past several years, Governor Jerry Brown recently announcing a modest 2.2% budget increase for California public schools for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Given the slowing rate of revenue increases, increased costs for pensions and other obligations and impacts of declining enrollment, many school districts are facing budgetary challenges that complicate their efforts to the fund services and supports necessary to close opportunity and achievement gaps.
“The Smarter School Spending process helps districts turn around the impact of “initiative overload,” narrow their priorities and look inside their budgets for the funding necessary to support their instructional priorities,” said Dr. Ramanathan. “We believe that Smarter Spending should be a way that every district thinks about developing their budget and LCAP.”