Year after year, administrators and teachers face the threat of budget cuts. Even when the state legislature increases the budget for education, growing student populations, rising costs, and aging structures combine to erase gains.
In a 2018 survey of national nonprofits, teachers had an average classroom budget of $212 provided by the state or district. The US Department of Education found that in 2018, 94% of teachers spent more than $450 out of pocket for supplies, while 7% spent $1,000 or more. In 2021, a survey found teachers spend an average of $750 per year out of their own pockets for classroom supplies.
Many districts also face a “use it or lose it” challenge, an incentive for quick spending without analyzing needs. How can you make the most of your budget even as it shrinks?
Educational Enhancement Funds
You can seek funding to help close the gap between state or district allocations and your school’s needs. Educational enhancement funds (EEF) are specifically designed for programs like the EEF Instructional Supply Program.
EEFs and the supply programs are not the same in every state, although most states offer a similar pot of money.
Beyond specifically named enhancement funds, school districts and states have access to grants and subsidies to provide general and specific assistance to schools based on need.
How to Budget in a Changing World
Remember the goal of school, after school programs, and other childcare situations. Focus first on student needs and requirements. Instead of a flurry of purchasing before the first day of school, ask teachers to wait until they get to know their students to purchase non-necessary items.
Some students don’t require the same supplies as others. Some need help to obtain tools while others have the financial foundation to supply their own. Ask teachers to get to know their students and consider items that they might not think of otherwise.
Specify Tools for Mastering Subject Matter
Tell teachers to begin with the subject they teach. What would best assist them and their students in mastering the subject? Keep student engagement in mind when selecting tools. Students do best when learning is interesting to them and contains an element of fun.
Look for versatile, durable tools with open-ended uses. Leverage bulk purchasing for schoolwide items like headphones, tablets, pencils, pens, and paper.
Today, fun and engagement often mean technology integration. Many kids routinely use cell phones and are accustomed to immediate results, and they don't want to wait days to learn the outcome of a homework assignment or test.
Technology doesn't need to be expensive. Many free online instruction resources, including tutorials and mini-quizzes, provide immediate and automatic scores. Such tools reduce teacher effort in grading and help identify student learning needs quickly. If most students in your school have personal access to technology, consider incorporating technology into the classroom judiciously.
Ask for Donations
Get connected with your local community. Ask businesses for donations of technology or supplies. Remind them that the students your school teaches today are tomorrow's employees.
Ask students to bring supplies from home. Depending on the prevailing demographics, some parents might be willing to provide specific types of supplies from their own businesses. Also, you can make use of everyday items every household has by planning lessons and projects around them. Think of cardboard toilet paper tubes and egg cartons.
Other places to look for funding include popular crowdfunding platforms, the ever-popular fundraisers using chocolate bars, t-shirts, and services, and contests run by local, state, and federal entities.
Leverage social media contacts and look for free, used, or inexpensive items to reduce the stress on the budget.
Use Childcare Management Software
Childcare management software provides features that enhance your revenue stream and save money on administrative costs and supplies.
Allow parents to make payments online using a credit card or bank account. They can register for automatic or recurring payments that they can quickly end when needed. They can also use the portal to update their payment methods and keep track of tuition payments.
Send payment status and other updates via email to remind parents of upcoming invoices to eliminate late fees.
Minimize your accounts receivable while automatically tracking additional fees for late payment, late pickup, and specialized offerings. Improve billing accuracy and save trips to the bank using automated processes to create invoices and process payments into multiple accounts as needed.
The software can even simplify subsidized payments from agencies or split payments from separated parents. Parental satisfaction is a significant driver in client retention, and billing problems can cause a family to move to another school or childcare operation.
Childcare management software also helps reduce time and labor for administrative tasks. With an automated tool, you can be able to expand administrative responsibilities or reduce personnel.
Making the Most of It
Budget concerns are often at the top of both school administrator and teacher worry lists. Teachers are expected to educate students to the best of their ability, even when missing essential resources. Though current budget cuts may cause teachers to reach into their own pockets, there are some actions to take that can lessen the financial burden.
Hopefully these tips have inspired or encouraged you to seek out additional funds or introduce new money-saving tips to your school staff.