Budgeting is crucial to the transformation of schools' success globally. In the United States, several districts have devised a new approach to help run schools from the elementary level through middle school to high school known as the student-based budgeting. The approach entails schools getting allocated funds based on the students' stage in the education structure whether in elementary, middle or high school. This student-based funding has enabled equitable allocation of funds depending on the types of needs of schools by their differing levels. This paper, therefore, aims to discuss the similarities and differences in three budgets allocated to the differing levels of school, that is, the elementary, middle and high school. The comparison will be made on the complexity and components of the school budgets.
The differing school levels use similar criteria during the budgeting process where they all have to deal with orderly budgeting reductions to attain the required balance in their budgets. Schools are also expected to rightfully encourage the education values stipulated by the district by ensuring the resources are well managed (Caldwell, 2005). In their particular regions, schools are expected to allocate their budgets in a way that will position the community to attain their missions successfully. This indicates the similar ways in which budget allocation takes place in schools regardless of the level of school.
During budget compiling in an elementary, middle and high school, similar components make up the necessary budget. Here, the established budgetary team tries to create what these components might be that cut across all budgets in school settings. During budgeting, the team evaluates the estimated enrollment expected in the coming year to make the necessary arrangements. In each of the schools, the management is tasked with the responsibility of visualizing what the future holds regarding the number of students these schools are expected to enroll to ensure proper resource allocations so that the school objectives are well met. With such projections, schools put themselves in a position to request funds that are authorized by the General Assembly about the School Finance Act. Schools are expected to establish budgets that follow policy guidelines put in place by the Board of Education (Stiefel et al., 2000). The Board of Education then verifies these budgets before consideration for adoption. Schools must adhere to these components for their budgets to be approved. Therefore, such elements of the school budget are similar in the differing levels of school.
Elementary, middle and high school budgeting have similarities in expenditures strategies about the capital layout and support facilities. At these school levels, it is the principal's mandate to call a meeting with members of staff to discuss how staffing and well as resource allocation to support programs will be done. The School Accountability Committee plays the advisory role to the school in matters to do with school budgeting at the school level (Caldwell, 2005). At these meetings, decisions must be made to benefit the students by the District's commitment act solely. The final budget is put in place to help the students as well as the community as whole ensuring students are well prepared for postsecondary education and their career paths.
The government also uses similar criteria for all school levels during its funding program to fund the school's budgets. Every other year the General Assembly is mandated with the responsibility to establish per pupil revenue (PPR) using the formula of the School Finance Act (Hope and Fraser, 2003). Components considered during this funding calculation act include; factoring in the cost of living, adjustments likely to be made depending on the size of the students' population as well as factors on non-personnel and personnel costs. Budgeting in schools is also done in line with activities likely to take place in these institutions. Expenditures are expected on activities to do with transportation, the general administration, maintenance and operation services, fiscal, central and community services, indirect and direct instructions.
Elementary schools' budget differs variably to that of middle school which also differs from that of high school regarding the budgets' details and complexity. For example, for the elementary school enrollment of students independent on the staffing has given that the ration of students to teachers is expected to be 18.5 full-time equivalents (FTE) to one single teacher (Wakelee & Itkonen, 2013). In elementary school budgeting of staff is crucial to maintaining a low student to teacher ratio which makes it possible for one-on-one interaction between teacher and student. Schools at this stage are provided with additional funds on the budget for the fourth and the fifth grades. As compared to middle and high school where budgeting of staff is done more to accommodate specialist teachers, in elementary school the contrary is true where team less budgeting is put in place for less specialized teachers.
As compared to the elementary school, middle school requires more funding because here more staff have to be accounted for in the budget. Hence, in middle school, the program assistance requires 1 FTE (Hartley, 1967). In middle school, a specialized is needed to help in the student's achievement in matters concern with technology. During staffing, the budget is also expected to cover slots for counselor and dean positions. As compared to elementary school, there is more specialization in middle school as students are allowed to choose classes. Therefore, this means that more specialized teachers are budgeted for to cover for extracurricular activities on instrumental music and foreign languages. Even though some teachers could choose to take more additional responsibilities, the budget must ensure that these teachers are compensated for their extra work with students. Middle schools staffing also includes; a school nurse, security specialists, bookkeeper, psychologist and so on. Given that middle school compared to elementary school is substantial is the size regarding its population and demography, this means more expenditure on utilities such as electricity, sewer, gas, water and so on which results in a more significant budget allocation to cover all these expenditures.
For high schools, their budgets are almost similar to that of middle school, even though that of high school is on a large scale. In high school, there is a more massive student's enrollment, which results in more addition to the security specialists, custodians, counselors, deans and assistant principals. In high school, teachers to take more responsibilities such as heading a department. As a result, their responsibility pay is reserved in the enrollment-based staffing package as set out in the budget (Hartley, 1967). In most high schools as opposed to elementary and middle schools, nurses are employed on a full-time basis as well as staffing more secretaries due to increased specialized departmental offices. High schools are also involved in competitive sports activities such as athletics, basketball, football, and soccer at the national level (Horng et al., 2010). The schools must, therefore, budget more to cover such outdoor activities by employing trainer specialists to help students to reach their full potential. Budgeting in high school compared to elementary and middle school is more prominent about student's application for postsecondary education in colleges and universities to further their education. Hence, more funds are put aside to help students to land the college destination of their choice through scholarships.
In conclusion, this paper has prioritized the comparison of school budgets in elementary, middle and high. It sorts to establish the possible similarities and differences between these budgets. The findings in this essay can be used to help during resource allocation once a better understanding is realized by what is needed to fund school budgets to ensure success in the education sector. The comparison is made about the budget complexity and its components. It is evident that the school budget components are similar across all the differing school levels given that the same procedures and details are evaluated to establish successful budgets in ruling schools from elementary school through middle school to high school. Regarding complexity, high school budgets are more complicated than middle school budgets which are more complicated than that of elementary school. High schools' budgets are more significant and intricate because of more enrollment and specialization to accommodate the student needs. Finally, this study establishes that the school budget components are similar in the differing school levels while contrasting in their complexity with the elementary schools' budget being the least complex.
Caldwell, B. J. (2005). School-based management (Vol. 3). Perth, Australia: International Institute for Educational Planning.
Hartley, H. (1967). Economic Rationality in Urban School Planning: the Program Budget. Urban Education, 3(1), pp.39-51.
Hope, J., & Fraser, R. (2003). Beyond Budgeting. Harvard Business School Press, Boston.
Horng, E. L., Klasik, D., & Loeb, S. (2010). Principal's time use and school effectiveness. American Journal of Education, 116(4), 491-523.
Stiefel, L., Berne, R., Iatarola, P., & Fruchter, N. (2000). High school size: Effects on budgets and performance in New York City. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22(1), 27-39.
Wakelee, D., & Itkonen, T. (2013). The Politics of School District Budgeting: Using Simulations to Enhance Student Learning. Journal Of Political Science Education, 9(2), 236-248. doi: 10.1080/15512169.2013.770995
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