Build Budget Support with Community Engagement

School budgets need community insight and trust to make real change. Engage your community faster, and build support for your budgets with ThoughtExchange.
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November 7, 2022

Sarah Mathias

How Education Leaders are Achieving Their Goals: Financial Efficiency

5 minutes
Meeting your district’s financial goals ensures supported students and a thriving district. And getting your educators, staff, students, and community members involved is paramount. Planning your school budget, struggling to pass a bond, or working to improve your facilities? You need a platform that lets you engage with and hear from everyone.
Get the community support you need to pass a bond, using ThoughtExchange
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Education leaders use ThoughtExchange to tap into their community’s insights and improve financial efficiency quickly and easily.

Planning your school budget with community input

District budget planning requires prioritization and support. Involving your community from the start will get you both. And with a total of $764.7 billion or $15,120 per pupil to fund K-12 public education, it’s worth the effort. ThoughtExchange makes it easy to prioritize your school budget and build your community’s trust and support.

Highline School District seeks input on $299M bond

After failing to pass a bond for ten years, and with $299M on the line, Washington’s Highline Public Schools needed to figure out how to get a bond passed.

Community members needed more information to support the bond. And with the district’s outdated infrastructure and buildings, they were concerned about school safety.

“We had a couple of bond failures in our recent past, and when we failed for the second time in a row we had to really stop and ask, ‘What’s the issue here?’ It boiled down to trust with the community. So, we needed to find some new and creative ways to build trust. We looked at some of our peer Districts and found that one of the common denominators was ThoughtExchange.”

Catherine Carbone Rogers,
CCO, Highline Public Schools

With ThoughtExchange, Highline is giving the community what they want and planning its future school budgets as well. By listening to and engaging with all voices before, during, and after the planning process, Highline can plan its budget more efficiently.

Summaries feature gives a snapshot of topics to explore further

Regular Exchanges often involve thousands of participants. Leaders can use the Summaries feature to get a snapshot of salient topics. By arranging Summaries by Group or Theme and quickly get a 30,000ft view of participants’ major concerns or questions, Highline could see which school budget issues stood out to the community that needed to be addressed in their bond.

Passing your bond or levy efficiently

When state funding falls short, districts rely on bonds and levies to improve their facilities, programs, and services. But with factors like ongoing tax increases, some districts are failing to pass bonds. For example, in one year Minnesota school districts experienced a 75% failure rate.

Passing a bond referendum is up to your community. Establishing trust and transparency is essential for increasing public confidence in your strategic direction. When constituents share their thoughts and are confident you’ve heard them, your bond or levy process becomes more efficient, saving your district time and money.

Spokane Public Schools passes $495M bond

Spokane Public Schools required major facility improvements—from building new middle schools and creating more space to upgrading their technology. Using ThoughtExchange to engage their community helped them pass their bond with nearly 67% of the vote.
“We heard from over 3,500 parents, community members, and staff – much more than ever before in a bond planning process, and feel confident that the right projects were selected for the right reasons.”

Dr. Shelley Redinger,
former Superintendent, Spokane Public Schools

Ratings feature promotes agility

ThoughtExchange’s Ratings feature allows leaders to keep their budget and financial planning agile. When the Spokane Public Schools reviewed their Exchange report, a priority shift from high school to elementary school surprised them. Through the engagement process, community members collaboratively identified the district’s priorities.

Enhancing facilities and school improvement planning with community trust

Need to improve your school facilities? Get your district’s input for a successful plan. Their participation isn’t only essential for budgets and bonds, it’s also a “core resource for whole school improvement.”

ThoughtExchange helps you build your community’s trust. Ask them what they want and need and make improvements based on their input.

Evanston/Skokie unveils 5th Ward school plans

As part of the School Assignment Project, informed by ThoughtExchange, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 came up with two scenarios to address school attendance areas and a new school in the 5th Ward.
“We will get through this as a community, as a district. We know this is not an easy conversation.”

Dr. Devon Horton, Superintendent,
Evanston/Skokie School District 65

Involving your community and creating trust with them from the start creates support for even the most contentious facilities and school improvement plans.
Hear Dr. Horton’s story in his own words.
Watch the Video

Differences feature reveals common ground

Common ground is essential for your plan’s success. The Differences feature helps you find it.

For Evanston/Skokie, participants disagreed about building a new school, with some participants concerned about paying more taxes. However, both sides agreed that all schools should be safe and accessible. By sharing what it would cost to make all existing schools safe and accessible, and clarifying that building a new school would be cost-neutral, D65 would get the school built.


Optimizing your district’s financial efficiency with ThoughtExchange

Whether your district is working to plan school budgets, pass a bond, or improve facilities, you’ll want to hear from the people who matter most.

With unique features like Summaries for a snapshot of issues to explore, Ratings for agile budget planning, and Differences to identify common ground, ThoughtExchange helps education leaders uncover their district’s needs, and implement more efficient financial plans.

See how ThoughtExchange is helping districts prepare and pass bonds.
Get the Guide
Sarah Mathias
Sarah discovered her love of words when she penned her first journal in grade 4—she hasn’t stopped writing since. With a BA in Sociology and an MPC in International/Intercultural Communication, Sarah honed her corporate writing skills in the travel insurance and fashion industries before working with ThoughtExchange. She brings her collaborative spirit and commitment to antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion, along with her penchant for grammar jokes.

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