Profiles in School Leadership: Leveraging Student-Based Budgeting

Profiles in School Leadership_Leveraging Student-Based BudgetingIn the 2013-14 school year, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) introduced Student-Based Budgeting (SBB), a strategic budgeting model that fairly and equitably allocates funding to schools – including both district-operated and charter – on a per-pupil basis. 

As a result of the move to SBB, Chicago’s public school principals now directly control 45 percent of the total CPS operating budget. While SBB presents significant benefits with regard to local control and decision-making, the timing of the SBB rollout coincided with significant resource constraints on schools. This fiscal reality means principal leadership is more critical than ever before. Difficult decisions need to be made, and school communities are best-positioned to make them.

At the same time, Chicago’s principals want more practical tools that help increase the quality of teaching and learning in schools, especially as it relates to instruction and SBB. In fact, based on findings from our 2014 Principal Engagement Survey, 40 percent of principals would like more support in SBB. Principals also cited a desire for more opportunities to learn from their peers to overcome common challenges with timely, innovative solutions and more examples of good practice within Chicago’s public schools.

The Fund developed this report in response to principals’ desire for more examples, and to support them as they navigate these challenges. The first few pages of the report offer a brief, recent history of CPS school budgets and the shift from a quota system to SBB. The remainder of the report includes brief profiles of principal leadership. In addition to clarifying some common misconceptions about what SBB is and what it is not, we hope these are useful tools to principals as they think about their own school budgets.

Leveraging Student-Based Budgeting_Share of CPS Budget Subject to Principal ControlThe four schools profiled are:

Cesar E. Chávez Multicultural Academic Center

A CPS neighborhood elementary school that takes advantage of the flexibility that SBB offers to pilot and refine innovative new academic programs, including work on the full school day.

Disney II Magnet School

A CPS magnet elementary school that is expanding to serve high school students in a K-12 model in an uncertain financial environment. Starting a new high school in CPS is always challenging and requires careful planning.

Leveraging Student-Based Budgeting_Funding Sources in an Example CPS Elementary SchoolNamaste Charter School

A CPS charter elementary school that demonstrates the importance of careful alignment between the budget and the school’s most important priorities, especially when resources are stretched. As a single-site charter school, Namaste operates with more funding constraints than typical charter networks.

Charles P. Steinmetz College Preparatory High School

A CPS neighborhood high school that carefully uses a budget-planning and -tracking tool to evaluate outcomes for each of 12 priority areas.


Click here for an example of an Excel budget template used in CPS Network 3, which Steinmetz Principal Stephen Ngo finds useful. The Fund thanks Chris Demorotski, the data strategist for Network 3, who created this tool and Randel Josserand, Chief of Schools for Network 3.

View the complete report.