School Budgeting with an Equity Lens #BeAntiracistBeNoble

Image shows a photo in the background of some Noble students in the hallway of a Noble school. On top, there is a transparent blue layer and on top of that, there is blue text on a yellow background that reads "School Budgeting with an Equity Lens". The Noble Schools logo is in the bottom right corner.
Published On: March 3rd, 2021Categories: 2022, Constance Jones

Noble is on a journey to become an antiracist organization. Teams at campuses and the Noble support team are hard at work leaning into that charge, refining systems, examining policies and practices. Some work is already in progress like the Noble Equity Index and the Noble Equity Fund.

As part of the five-year strategic planning process, Noble engaged its community – parents, students, teachers, staff, alumni, and the broader community – to inform the way forward. One key component of the plan was the implementation of principles of equity in all levels of our work – including budgeting.

Image shows graphs of how Noble Schools measures its Equity Index
Photo shows a graph of where all 18 of Noble's schools fall on the Equity Index -- categorized with 5 main factors: feeder elementary schools, crime near student homes, number of IEPs (individual education plans), crime near the school, and percentage of students in temporary living situations

Screen Shot 2022-09-22 at 5.12.09 PM

These graphs show the 5 main factors that influence where schools fall on Noble's Equity Index and the composite findings.

“We knew that our budgeting process must be driven by equity – acknowledging the different strengths and challenges that each of our schools face. Our budgets need to be responsive to the contexts of our campuses and those varied starting places of our students,” said Matt McCabe, Chief of Public Affairs, who led the strategic planning process.

The strategic planning committee debated a number of different ways to accomplish this end but ultimately landed on five factors that form an “equity index.” Those factors are – quality of feeder elementary school, rates of serious crime surrounding a campus, rates of serious crime surrounding each student’s home, level of overall special education population at the school, and rate of students in transitional living situations. Those factors were aggregated into a single index number to inform more equitable distribution of resources and provide guidance on time and attention from Noble support staff.

“These measures aren’t perfect, and we know that one could make an argument to swap out any one of these and replace it with a different variable,” said Jennifer Davis, Chief Equity Officer who served on the steering committee. “But we didn’t want perfect to be the enemy of good here – we think the composite of these five numbers gives a pretty clear picture of the additional challenges a campus or students might face so we can better support them. And, we’ll continue to monitor these criteria over time and make adjustments if need be.”

It is one thing to identify challenges; the important next step is to act in accordance with them.  One primary use of the index is the Noble Equity Fund – an attempt to distribute additional dollars to campuses on a per-pupil basis so that campuses can provide additional support for their students and staff. The Equity Fund uses the Index to scale those dollars.

Campuses use this additional funding to layer on additional support for students receiving special education services, socio-emotional support, adding innovative academic interventions, purchasing additional resources for teachers, supplementing technology support for students, and more. Importantly, as outlined in the strategic plan, the use of these funds isn’t prescriptive. Principals, informed by their staff, students, and families – are deploying funds in flexible ways to meet students’ needs.

The fund is sure to adjust over time. “This is our second school year with the Equity fund,” said Alejandro Ramirez, Noble’s Chief Financial Officer, “so in many ways, we’re still learning the best ways to implement this, but we’re looking forward to the road ahead.”

“Fundamentally, we view our budget and how we support our campuses as a question of equity.” said Constance Jones, Noble’s CEO, “we believe that budgeting using principles of equity is a key lever for us to serve our students well and accomplish our mission.”

Read more about Noble Schools’ anti-racism work…

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