How You Can Analyze Your Personnel Budget to Maximize Return on Investment

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How You Can Analyze Your Personnel Budget to Maximize Return on Investment

By Dr. Danny Mendez


Most school districts spend between 80%-90% of their general fund budget on personnel costs.  One would be hard-pressed to find a way to solve their financial challenges by simply making changes to the other 10-20% of their budget.  

How might we go about analyzing our personnel budget to ensure we are getting the best return on investment?  We can start by looking at these number of areas. 

  • Quality vs. Quantity
  • Human Capital Allocation
  • Federal Grant Funding


Quantity vs. Quality

More isn’t always better.  When thinking about return on investment we should look at how we can utilize our dollars to best meet our mission of serving our students.  To do this, we should consider the following points.

  • Research is clear that the teacher is the most important factor in student achievement.  
  • Investing dollars in highly-qualified, full-time instructional coaches to coach teacher growth and run professional development would, according to research, grow all teachers within the building, allowing them to better grow their students.
  • 50% of teachers leave the profession in their first 5 years. This number increases in high poverty schools.  The teacher shortage is a front-end problem because school districts may not have effective teacher induction steps/supports in place.


Example to Analyze: A number of schools and or school districts often employ a large number of instructional aides to assist in supporting students various academic needs.  While this is an important personnel group, there are some things to consider when looking at maximizing our return on investment. Dr. Danny Mendez can help you as you analyze your current personnel budget.

Looking at the cost assessment of these positions may give us a more clear picture on how we should prioritize our dollars.  


Example: 1 instructional coach may cost what 2 or 3 instructional aides may cost. 

  • Which position would yield bigger academic results for the students and the school?
  • Which position has the ability to support teachers in a way that will help with teacher retention?
  • Which position comes to you with the most education and training?


Human Capital Allocation

Another way to analyze how to ensure we get the greatest return on investment is to look at how we allocate our human capital.  Here are some things to think about when analyzing this area:

·       Does our instructional model maximize the reach of our personnel?

·       How many students do we have our special education inclusion aides working with?

·       How many students do we have our English Learner instructional aides working with?

·       Have we embraced the concept that both EL and SPED instructional aides are there to lower the student to adult/teacher ratio, thus allowing them to work with non-identified students as well?  


Note: We have helped elementary schools tweak their schedule and instructional model to take their inclusion aides and exponentially increase the number of students they worked with while ensuring that their students with the greatest needs were being serviced by high-quality teachers.  Want to know how to do this? Contact us to find out how Dr. Mendez can help.


Federal Grant: Title I, Title II, Title III, Etc.

Federal grants are an important source of funding for schools and districts throughout the country.  However, due to annual fluctuations they are difficult to budget for from year to year.  Here are some things to consider when planning to utilize federal grant dollars.  

·       Sustainability: Can your plan in its current form be sustained from year to year?  

·       Are the personnel paid for by these dollars permanent employees or budget contingent employees?  

·       Have you been as creative as possible with the positions paid for through these funds?  

·       Have you maximized the use of these dollars to grow your teaching staff?

·       Have you utilized these dollars to aid with teacher induction?  


Title I Example. Rather than utilizing these dollars for more instructional aides, you could create positions called Facilitators and fill them with certified teachers. They are paid at a similar level as entry-level teaching staff, however, they are budget contingent and not guaranteed a position if the federal dollars aren’t there the following year. 


What is great about positions such as these is that you can utilize them as a training ground for your future permanent certified teaching staff.  They are highly qualified and able to take part in your professional development.  This is a great step towards implementing a solid layer of teacher induction. Want to learn more tips like this? Contact us to find out how Dr. Mendez can help you maximize the use of your Title allocations.


Analyzing your human capital budget and practices will not address every challenge you may have. However, it will ensure that those practices and dollars spent are in line with your mission of serving students.  


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