School Districts Show Little Faith in Principals

Commentary

School Districts Show Little Faith in Principals

A typical principal manages less than 5% of their school’s budget. Although they’re expected to produce results there is little room to innovate, spend money efficiently, and make strategic decisions. Instead, district officials traditionally dictate how resources are allocated based on clunky staffing ratios and inequitable budgetary practices.

Using student-based budgeting, where principals are empowered to direct resources based on their school’s strategic priorities, a principal generally controls 40% or more of their budget and has flexibility to meet the needs of their student population.

While many districts are moving toward student-based budgeting, others have little faith in their principals: they believe principals have neither the ability nor time to manage budgets. This thinking is erroneous.

With proper training and support any competent principal can learn how to direct their school’s resources-just as thousands of charter school and private school principals already do. In terms of time, there are few things that are more important than aligning resources with strategic priorities. Quite simply, student-based budgeting enhances a principal’s role as instructional leader.

It’s time to empower principals to produce results. Top-down bureaucratic management has failed our students for too long.

Read more here.

Aaron Garth Smith is the director of education reform at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.