This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
For this year’s budget season, the School District has provided for the first time in memory a detailed guide to school budgets, explaining how funds are allocated to schools.
It’s a daunting read – a dense, 51-page document, including the 10 appendices. But the document reflects the complexity of the system it is trying to explain. For instance, it identifies 17 different centrally allocated funding streams to schools – such as kindergarten teachers, special education, ELL support, school nurses, school police, and food service – where the school must spend the dollars as the District dictates.
As a first step in the District’s move toward a new system for alloting funds to schools, known as weighted student funding, District officials have pledged to make the existing system of school budgeting more transparent. Making the system transparent is going to require a lot of explaining, but this document is an important first step.