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Guide for Teachers: How to Get District Funding
If you’re a teacher, you’re lucky to get a few hundred dollars stipend to purchase classroom materials. But what if you have bigger dreams, a broader vision for what your students really need? You probably have something in mind that you want to buy, maybe VR headsets or maybe you desperately need a new Spanish curriculum since the covers are falling off the classroom sets.
Here’s some tips to get access to district funding:
Timing is everything. Critical district budget decisions are finalized in the Spring. Spring is also the main grant application season for school districts. So you need to work well in advance to gather support for your project and budget request.
Find out who holds the purse strings. Some districts have site-based decision-making, while others centralize all purchases at the district level. Talk to your principal to understand how and when budget decisions are made locally. Ask to meet with someone from the Central Office to increase your understanding.
Gather a team. It’s easy to say “no” to one teacher who wants to purchase something for a single class in a single school. It’s harder to say “no” to a group of teachers who have identified a common need spanning a whole grade range or a whole content area and have developed a formal project plan.
Create a project. Many teachers ask for extra funding. To make your request stand out, frame your request around a project with specific goals to be accomplished.
Which is more compelling?
- I need a new Spanish curriculum.
- The District’s Spanish curriculum was purchased before today’s middle schoolers even started preschool. Project Nuevo will deepen cultural understanding among middle schoolers across three schools by providing engaging, modern Spanish resources created by native speakers and increase family engagement.
Your district has multiple streams of K12 funding tied to specific desired outcomes and students to be served. Help district budget administrators connect the dots by clearly stating the relevant information in a table like this:
Table 1: Project Request Summary
Name of Project
Pro tip: Give your project a catchy name or acronym to make it more memorable.
Your goal should not be to buy X; it should be related to student achievement. Be sure to include the content area addressed.
Alignment to District Strategic Priority
List district-specific goals from the Strategic Plan, Technology Plan, Superintendent goals, etc.
Students to be Served
- How many students will be served? What grade levels? From how many schools?
- Are any targeted schools Title I Schoolwide programs? Or identified for Targeted or Comprehensive Schools?
- What student subgroups will be served (ex: EL? Students with disabilities? Struggling students?)
When are you wanting to implement this project? When do the purchases need to be made?
Clearly state the amount needed. Include pricing proposals as an attachment so leadership can see real numbers.
Pro tip: show the math to show cost effectiveness. Divide the total amount needed by the number of students to be served.
In some districts, it’s helpful to show who supports the request. Is there a district leader who will advocate on your behalf?
Anticipate that this summary table could be distributed to other administrators without you presenting it. Provide contact information to your project planning leader who can answer questions.
Show your project request summary to someone who hasn’t been involved in the planning discussions and ask if it makes sense and if it's compelling. Then pitch your project to your principal to get feedback on the strength of your proposal. Emphasize how your project supports an existing strategic priority in the District and ask for project endorsements.
Don’t get discouraged. If you hear “We don’t have budget for that”, ask if there are funds available to fund a portion of the project. Ask what the process is to include your project request in next year’s budget. When the right decision-makers have the buy-in to your project idea, they’ll be able to pull the right budget levers to make it happen.