Allocation Anatomy: How District Policies That Deploy Resources Can Support (or Undermine) District Reform Strategies

May 2008

The process of creating and managing a school budget is a complex undertaking, and many districts spend countless hours amassing thick budget binders and balancing resources among departments. But those efforts often don't reflect many of the key details and decisions that ultimately affect how money and resources are actually allocated among schools or students.

Urban districts are often large, hierarchical bureaucracies in which allocation processes are spread among different layers and executed by different players in the system. When district leaders fail to recognize the various micro-level allocation practices used to deploy millions (or in some cases billions) of dollars in their organization, they may not be aligning their resources with their intended strategies for reform. Resource allocation practices take on many different forms, each with different implications for various district strategies.

This paper explores the nature of micro-budgeting decisions and shows how they support or hamper district reform strategies. It also provides a framework to help district leaders recognize different kinds of allocations.

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