PK-12 Budget Resource Center

Plan and PrepareSet Instructional PrioritiesPay for PrioritiesImplement PlanEnsure Sustainability

School districts are under continuous pressures to provide a high-quality education to their students with ever tighter budgets. GFOA has developed the Best Practices in School Budgeting and numerous related resources and supports in order to help school districts better align their limited resources with their student outcome and achievement goals.


Step 1. Plan and Prepare. The planning and budgeting process begins with mobilizing key stakeholders, gathering information on academic performance and cost structure, and establishing principles and policies to guide the budget process.

Step 2. Set Instructional Priorities. The budget needs to be rooted in the priorities of the district. Intentionally created instructional priorities provide a strong basis for developing a district’s budget and strategic financial plan, as well as presenting a budget document.

Step 3. Pay for Priorities. Current resources and expenditures must be thoroughly analyzed in order to find the capacity to pay for top instructional priorities.

Step 4. Implement Plan. The "strategic financial plan" is the long-term road map for implementing the district’s instructional priorities. A "plan of action" describes how the strategic financial plan will be translated into coherent actionable steps.

Step 5. Ensure Sustainability. The planning and budgeting process should be one that can be replicated in the future in order to ensure the district remains focused and plans accordingly for reaching its student achievement goals.


The Best Practices in School Budgeting incorporate research proven practices into a cohesive budget process that is centered on aligning resources with student outcomes through strong collaboration of academic and finance staff. The following provides more information on the Best Practices and how to incorporate this process in your district.



Beaverton School District, Oregon began working on implementing the Best practices in School Budgeting several years ago. The district is still in the process of implementing the Best practices – but has already started to realize the benefits. Watch the video to learn more about their successes so far. 


GFOA Best Practices

  • GFOA Best Practice: School Budgeting: GFOA recommends that all districts go through the five steps listed above (Plan and Prepare, Set Instructional Priorities, Pay for Priorities, Implement the Plan, and Ensure Sustainability) as part of their planning and budgeting process.


Other Resources

The Smarter School Spending website presents a wide range of tools, examples from school districts, and other free resources to help guide districts in implementing an improved budget process that incorporates the recommended practices advocated for within GFOA's Best Practices for School Budgeting.



The Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting includes districts from across the US from all different demographics and levels of achievement working towards implementation of the Best Practices in School Budgeting.

Participants in the Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting will enjoy benefits such as access to resource materials as well as hands-on training to help them throughout the implementation process.  More importantly, members of the Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting will be able to network with their peer organizations to share their experiences and knowledge.

GFOA is recruiting for the second cohort of the Alliance for Excellence in School Budgeting which will begin in November 2017. If you are interested in applying to be part of the group, please complete the application form. Key questions and answers, as well as the proposed timeframe, can be found here.



News and Events
School District of Fort Atkinson Works with Entire District Leadership Team on Smarter School Spending Framework



Additional GFOA Resources


GFOA Conference

GFOA Research


Best Practices