Pay Theory Blog
October 4, 2022

K-12 School Budgets

Budgeting looks different for each K-12 school district. It’s also an aspect of K-12 education that many people don’t fully understand. With problems arising in districts nationwide, such as the teacher shortage, and new financial technology advancements changing the education landscape, there’s so much to know when it comes to K-12 school budgets.

We broke down the people who make the budget, the problems that we’re seeing from the teacher shortage, and ways treasurers and other key district stakeholders can make the most of their district's budget.

The High-Level Budget Decision Makers

Typically, the budget is determined by the central office regarding how many teachers and other full-time staff will be employed, what curriculum will be taught, how many part-time supports will be available, the school administration and office staff, custodial schedules, staffing levels, and so on. School budgets cover everything, so we wondered who really manages the budget.

A common misconception is that the school principal has control over the budget for the K-12 school they oversee. The reality is that most principals are allocated a small budget for supplies and consumables. This amount is determined by the central office, who is best positioned to determine what general resources each school needs to kick off each school year.

Budgeting has been shifted to the treasurer more than in previous years to accommodate each school's unique needs. This shift was important because the site-level leaders, such as the treasurer, are most closely in tune with the needs of students in a specific school. Additional on-site budget leaders can see firsthand the classrooms that lack staffing levels, cleanliness, or higher-level curriculum.

The Teacher Shortage Requires a Larger Budget

According to EducationWeek, 40% of district leaders and principals describe their current staff shortages as “severe” or “very severe.” District leaders are scrambling to hire more qualified employees and raise wages. This is why it is so important for on-site leaders, like school treasurers, to manage the budget. Currently, the most common solution is asking employees to take on additional responsibilities. Nearly two-thirds of respondents to EdWeeks Research said they have done this for the new school year. But when the budget is insufficient educators will become frustrated with leaders adding more responsibilities to their already full schedule. In fact, The Alabama State Board of Education was sued by four teachers this summer for adding responsibilities without appropriately compensating them.

How to Make the Most of Your Budget

School treasurers are the true leaders when it comes to dispersing funds to the most demanding areas. But with the new role treasurers are adapting to, higher-level decision-makers still play a huge role. For treasurers looking to make the most of their budget, outsourcing is something to consider. Companies are shifting their budgets to accommodate outsourcing financial programs, according to Krusche.

This is because it removes mundane tasks from the school treasurer's routine to focus on more high-priority issues, such as the teacher shortage. These financial platforms, like Pay Theory, are easy to use, embed, and provide inclusive payment options for underbanked families. For example, school treasurers can manage and reconcile payments in one place. Now more than ever, Pay Theory is an easy solution for treasurers looking to make the most of the budget they have to work with.