Making District Budgeting Easier. . . And Even Fun

Creating a school district budget isn’t easy. Especially in a time when many districts are dealing with limited resources, difficult tradeoffs are inevitable. How can district leaders know which decisions are in the best interest for students?

Education Resource Strategies created Budget Hold’em for Districts to help with this challenge. Hold’em is an interactive exercise that allows school system leaders to explore the implications of their budgetary choices. It presents investment and savings options as a deck of cards, from which teams select a “hand” that aligns with with their goals for student achievement and hits a budget target. The tool has been used over 10,000 times both online and in-person, and ERS has found that it promotes collaboration across multiple perspectives, focuses teams on how to invest to best drive student achievement and then sparks conversation about the thoughtful tradeoffs needed to pay for those investments. In the past, San Francisco Unified, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Shelby County Schools and many more have used Hold’em as a part of their budget discussions – read more on their stories here.

Just last month, Hold’em was updated to be even more useful for districts. Each investment and savings “card” is now rated with an estimate on its potential student impact—allowing participants to focus in on what really matters. Additionally, the newest version is more engaging and intuitive, offers suggestions to pair strategies to increase their impact, links to related informational resources and presents clear next steps for districts. While the online version is a great introduction, ERS recommends an in-person workshop for districts to reap the most benefit.

As we’ve discussed before, effective investments and budgets can make a big difference for students; this tool can make those decisions easier. You can access Hold’em here.

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