Better Budgeting: Make Change Feel Normal

Apply better budgeting strategies to make changes to spending less controversial and more easily accepted within the school district.

| June 2016

  • Author Nathan Levenson focuses on a strategic and process-oriented approach that anticipates roadblocks and challenges as well as provides real-life examples of mistakes and successes.
    Photo by pfpgroup/Fotolia
  • In "A Better Way to Budget", Nathan Levenson includes joint fact-finding, simulations, and other exercises to help stakeholders agree on goals and identify the budgetary changes needed to reach those objectives.
    Cover courtesy Harvard Education Press

A Better Way to Budget (Harvard Education Press, 2015), by Nathan Levenson, provides practical, innovative advice on how to overcome the political and social pushback that often prevents district and school leaders from shifting scarce resources to the most student-centered uses. Filled with advice gathered over decades of work in schools, Levenson shows how school leaders can uncover the sources of potential conflicts and create a budgeting process that normalizes change, minimizes pushback, and builds public buy-in for needed reforms.

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Make Change Feel Normal

When I saw on the nightly news the fall of the Berlin Wall, I commented to a friend, “The world changed today.” What I meant by this was that something rare and important had happened. Something that would have lasting, widespread impact — the end of the Cold War, peace between nuclear powers, and much relief for the federal budget, as military spending would be scaled back. Sure, I turned out to be wrong in many ways, but it felt like something monumental had just happened.

The next time I heard this phrase uttered, with the same wondrous appreciation of the moment in time, was when a principal heard that I wanted to change how we served students participating in an integration program. For the principal, the announcement was full of shock and awe. For me, it was unexciting, obvious, and bordering on the mundane.

The facts, as I knew them, were easy to understand.

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