Published in edited form in NT Suns on August 8 2017.
MONEY MANAGEMENT CONSUMES SCHOOL LEADERS
From time to time, what appear to be mixed messages about money and its availability to schools gains traction in the media. People might be forgiven for believing that the matter of money for education means that all aspects of school programs are covered and money management is not as issue.
That is far from being the case. While global budgets gave principals and school councils greater autonomy in the way money was spent, there are obligations that mean care has to be taken with expenditure. Utility costs (power and water) and contractual needs ( cleaning and grounds maintenance) have to be met. Checks and balances have to be in place to ensure that money is on hand to meet these periodic accounts.
Without careful planning and awareness, school budgets can be prematurely drained. Allocations are received twice each year, with income having to meet accounts to be presented in the following months. Detailed planning is necessary because cost accountability is each school’s responsibility.
Global school budgets were implemented in Northern Territory Government schools in 2015 to reduce red tape and provide schools with increased autonomy. The Education Department identifies three benefits for schools.
“• increased flexibility and autonomy in decision making
• a clearer financial framework for use in planning
• greater certainty and visibility of the overall resources available to the school including staffing.” (Department of Education website)
School budgets are based on student needs. School location and the specific
needs of each child are taken into account. The following factors help determine the amount
received by each school.
• year level of students
• Indigenous status
• socio-economic status and community affluence.
• remoteness of the school.
The system aims at being fair and simple, but there are issues.
Staffing is one of the main problem areas. The salary allocation for each school is fixed, but pay rates and entitlements for teachers and support staff are variable. More experienced staff command higher salaries than those who are in their initial years of service. In order to save on salaries and spread staffing dollars, school councils may consider replacing experienced teachers with those beginning their teaching journey. While employment for permanent teachers can be guaranteed, those on contract do not have similar security of tenure.
Making sure there is sufficient money to meet every need is a challenge. Principals can become so busy with administration, they don’t have time to be the educational leaders they aim to be.