Budgeting for Change
How Much Does a Great School Cost?: School Economies and School Values by Barbara J. Smith
Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc., April 1, 2021
The question at the heart of this book is asked every day in independent schools. Whether it be constructing a curriculum or a strategic plan, mapping student success or an admissions policy, we are always, of necessity, weighing costs and values. The book How Much Does a Great School Cost? places us right at the intersection of school budgets and school mission, a position familiar to many in schools. The opening chapters of the book present and encourage reflections on what makes a great school and what opportunities there are, in most educational contexts, to improve the alignment between school economies and values. The author has interviewed a range of experienced educators to frame the discussion on setting funding priorities, the worthiness of desired innovations, and perceived or real obstacles to change. Next, Brown looks at school funds and expenditures. What emerges has the ring of a familiar truth in many schools: the budget will define what matters in an institution. While acknowledging that every context is different, this book untangles long-held budget beliefs to make room for imagining change. Supporting values costs money but perhaps not in the same ways we are spending money now. While the author's creative imagining of a New School will not suit all, she skillfully illuminates a pathway for rethinking the relationship between the best school we can imagine for our students and how to apportion the funds and live the values to make that vision possible.