Prince Georges’s Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. released a letter Thursday discussing a new program that will transform this year’s budget debate.
The program is called “student-based budgeting,” and it’s been used in school systems in Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York.
Here’s how it works:
In the past, the superintendent proposed a budget that dictated on practically everything that gets cut in every school. The school’s principal had control over about 2 percent of their buildings budget.
With student-based budgeting, the superintendent’s office gives more money to school principals based on a formula that factors enrollment figures, English language learners and special-needs students. In the new system, the principal controls around 50 percent of the school’s budget.
It is important to note that this new program does not come with additional money for the school system. Cuts will still have to be made. The big change is in who will make them.
Parents might want to take a closer look at how the principal is deciding on spending money, in addition to paying attention to budget hearings at the school level. Principals are supposed to present their plans at PTA meetings, then submit their proposals to the central office for review by month’s end.
The school system touts this program as a win: It allows principals to save programs that are important to their individual schools, while cutting others that might make sense for schools other than their own. It also allows the central office and the school board to wash their hands of some controversial cuts that will inevitably come down the pike.
There’ll surely be more coverage of this new budgeting plan for there are many questions. How will the system ensure transparency? How might increasing the diversity of programming affect the ability of the system’s central office to track and measure effectiveness? What has been done to educate principals to make smart decisions that are free of conflicts of interest?
There are many more questions that are frequently asked. The system has created a list of FAQs, which are answered here.