Driven by Data

Budget Considerations from COVID-19: LEAs’ Follow-Up Planning

On April 15, EdOps published “Budget Considerations from COVID-19,” detailing planning considerations that LEAs might apply to their contexts when budgeting for SY20-21. This post is a follow-up to share the planning efforts of specific LEAs on DC’s Deputy Mayor for Education’s Contingency Education Budget Planning Response Work Group. The intention of this post is to facilitate knowledge sharing among public charter school LEAs as they prepare their SY20-21 budgets.

Achievement Preparatory Academy Public Charter School
Greg Gaines, Chief Operating Officer

Undoubtedly, the SY20-21 school year will push LEAs to develop highly adaptive models for teaching and learning at all levels.  There seems to be no likelihood that we return to “business as usual” in the fall and there’s also no definitive prescription for what form our school schedules, occupancy and instructional delivery methods will take. Given that outlook, we are striving to make our primary levers for instruction as nimble as possible through the deployment of technology and the utilization of online curriculum. We are not only considering expanding the deployment of scholar devices, but also how we might reconfigure our IT infrastructure (e.g., upgrading servers, fleet management software, virtual classroom platforms) to support this new model.  

Of additional concern is the cost impact of providing PPE for staff and families on an ongoing basis.  We are grappling with the extent to which we make such provisions for stakeholders (what volume) and under what circumstances.  In a related sense, how much do we spend to retool our facilities to support safety and sanitization?  We’ve already purchased some additional cleaning and health equipment (e.g., electrostatic disinfectant sprayers, free-standing temperature readers), but we feel that additional measures will be required and we want to create budget reserves for that type of expenditure.

E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
Vanessa Carlo-Miranda, Chief Operating Officer

New flexibilities regarding federal funds provide an opportunity to carry over more money into SY 20-21. Schools should review recent guidance provided by OSSE and look at their current year federal funds drawdown schedule to determine how much they can afford to carry over to next year. In addition, schools should start planning on additional federal funds provided by the CARES Act which will flow through OSSE’s Title I formula.  

Friendship Public Charter School
Ken Cherry, Chief of Staff 

At Friendship PCS, we are considering the following as we develop our SY 20-21 budget:

  • Enrollment: We consistently monitor our enrollment and consider the impact on our budget. Given the most recent report by MySchoolDC, there is currently a 91% decline in enrollment. Schools should consider a contingency plan if enrollment targets are missed. Currently, Friendship is using our SY19-20 enrollment numbers to plan our budget.
  • Scenarios: We currently have multiple revenue and expense scenarios. Because we have to consider the impact of COVID-19 on our budget, we know we will spend our revenue differently. Friendship monitors all our expenses associated with COVID-19 (e.g., distance learning, cleaning supplies). It is in the analysis of our revenue and expenses during Q4 that is allowing us to match the best revenue and expense scenario for Friendship. What’s most important in building our scenarios is understanding and searching out every possible source of revenue – from federal CARES Act support to in-kind support for PPE, books and supplies for students at home use, or food service, as examples. Similarly, for expenses we are doing our best to understand the impact on expenses. We all know that there have been and will continue to be significant increases in expenses for distance learning. We also project decreases for things like field trips, large student or family gatherings and contractor expenses. While savings might be moderate, they still help so we can better serve students in the face of COVID-19 and shrink the funding gaps while doing so.

KIPP DC Public Schools
Dane Anderson, Chief Operating Officer

  • Contingency – Historically we have budgeted 2-3% of revenues as unallocated contingency. Currently we’re doubling that to more like 5-7%. As we plan over the summer and get more firm costs in place we’ll budget for those and eventually land on a contingency of 3-4%. One of the ways we are making this work (currently) is to hold events, athletics, activities, and in-person PD in this unallocated contingency line. These were costs we’ve had historically but we will only be able to hold a portion of these events – holding in contingency gives us flexibility to re-allocate more easily mid-year as new costs come up.
  • Focus on biggest costs first – we expect that the biggest risks to any budget next year are enrollment, additional staff for student health/nurse roles and remote learning experts, facility changes, and cleaning. There are a number of other potential costs but those will fall into place, we believe. We are laser focused on nailing down the operating plan (i.e., number of kids per classroom, health restrictions, days of operation, calendar, etc.) for any changes to these four areas. 

Meridian Public Charter School
Matthew McCrea, Head of School

One unexpected area of our budget we’re looking into now is how to offer opportunities to participate in sports when traditional sports may not be allowed in the fall or in the winter. We’ve started to think through what amount of our sports budget we may not need anymore (such as bus and transportation costs) and other items we might need instead (gaming computers) to be able to provide our students with engaging and competitive eSports when they can’t be on the soccer field or the basketball court.

Paul Public Charter School
Will Henderson, Executive Director of Operations

Paul PCS has three key drivers that guide our budgeting process:

  • Stewardship of our limited resources,
  • Safety and security of the students we serve and staff we employ to do so, and
  • Smooth Operations of the delivery of our services.

Our FY21 budget planning process has been drastically different, but our drivers have remained the same:

  • To maintain Smooth Operations of our variable planning for full or partial distance learning next year, we are investing resources into classroom technology and contingency planning for WiFi support for families who do not have consistent internet.
  • We have prioritized staff Safety / Security by maintaining benefits offerings and returning-staff raises, planning for COVID-related sick leave, supplying staff with small reimbursement stipends to outfit their home offices with what they need to maintain their space in comfort and safety
  • To ensure the Safety of anyone in our building next year, we are counting on added to expenses for PPE (gloves, masks, cleaning solution); however, we also categorize any items as PPE that will support with social distancing (additional security devices to spread out morning bag checks)
  • Additionally, we are planning for contingencies that will likely have financial implications such as meals-in-classrooms, additional periods in our master schedule, 

To be good Stewards and to afford these items, we are redirecting resources:

  • Extensions to the timeframe for use of FFY20 Title funds will decrease FY20 revenue but increase FY21 from the timing of those reimbursements
  • Utilization of E-rate funding for improvements to our technology infrastructure have been consolidated into FY21
  • Regular building maintenance will continue as scheduled, but various renovations to our space and any cosmetic or strictly program-related plans that are not safety-related have been deferred
  • Travel expenses for field trips and athletics will be greatly diminished until further notice
  • Some professional development will be created in-house rather than contracted out during this season, as will other services that are contracted out
  • Our budget will be closer to our Debt Coverage Service Ratio than originally planned, to maintain the ability to pivot throughout the year with a larger than usual contingency line, which means other lines (salaries for new hires, school-level budgets, etc.) will be managed more tightly than in years past



Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School
Kristin Scotchmer, Executive Director

As described by many of our colleagues already in this blog post, Mundo Verde’s team anticipates that the coming year will be financially challenging. I echo much of what my colleagues have contributed and am looking at taking a multi-pronged approach.  Yes, Yes, and Yes to the ideas my colleagues have put on the table. 

  • Yes – carrying over revenue we can into next year
  • Yes – planning higher contingency funds in SY20-21 budget to allow for unexpected expenses associated with distance learning on the one hand and disinfecting/social distancing in the building on the other hand
  • Yes – assuming reduced revenue due to enrollment instability
  • And – Yes – identifying expenses we can take on now in advance of next year: purchasing technology, school supplies and materials, PPE now and pursuing those projects we still can before year end

Finally – perhaps because Mundo Verde’s staff is now unionized (or perhaps because it is in our nature to do so), we’re exploring what it looks like to invite staff and families into the conversation, once we have some level of specificity about scenarios and funding. While I don’t yet know what it looks like, I am committed to working collaboratively with the union to create additional spaces for staff to have voice in what is such an uncertain time. I am interested in sharing ideas/reflections with other school leaders who may also be seeking new ways to lift up voices of our stakeholders at this uncertain time.

Sela Public Charter School
Joshua Bork, Head of School

We have two key ideas to share:

  1. Making sure that money for curriculum will be used to purchase online components to existing curricula for use when students have to be home. Along with this, using PD funding to provide more in-depth training for staff in use of online components of curricula.
  2. Potential budget adjustments to areas like food service, enrichment activities as part of before and aftercare and more funding for janitorial services.

Thurgood Marshall Academy
Raymond Weeden, Executive Director, and David Schlossman, COO

Thurgood Marshall Academy’s guiding assumption is that FY2020-21 will be characterized by instability since–as articulated by Instruction Partners, DC CFO DeWitt, and others–health and economic recovery will not be robust until FY2021-22 at the earliest. Factors stemming from this assumption include the following:

  • Families we serve will be impacted throughout the year, leading to potential enrollment instability (e.g., if families leave the District), increases in needs for economic, educational, and mental health support among stakeholders, and additional stress on LEA and city-wide social service resources.
  • Facility needs–both capital and maintenance budgets–will require resources to support social-distancing and disinfecting.  We are assuming that we will have neither 100% occupancy nor year-long distance learning but rather intervals of partial occupancy and distance learning, which will lead to costs to support dual instructional modes.
  • Instructional Technology, already an area of attention, has become a central focus since distance learning began, and we are planning and budgeting to sustain student access to devices and Internet connectivity.

These are, of course, just central examples of the widespread challenge–no doubt familiar to all LEAs–of planning in a period of “certain uncertainty.”

This post contributed by the Contingency Education Budget Planning Response Work Group Members.