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Weigh In: How Do You Promote Your Budget?

Educate, communicate, encourage debate.

ON TRACK
"We have a budget advisory committee of parents, community members, staff, teachers, and administrators," says Vincent Matthews, superintendent at the San Jose USD in California.

"Info from the board meeting is put on our website so the entire community can access it. We have so many swings in the California budget, we want to make sure people are aware of where we are ... and what we're planning to do.

"When I was a state administrator in Oakland, people could go onto our website and make budget cuts in one area using an online tracker. They could see if they cut one area the impact it would have in a different area. It gave people much greater insight into the difficulty of getting to a balanced budget.

"When people are given the correct information, understand the importance of education, and are given the opportunity to determine whether they want to fund education, more often than not, they choose to do just that."

LISTEN CAREFULLY
"We've tended in the past to do a lot of informing but not a lot of collecting information and analyzing and listening to it," says Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

"We filmed a video that's posted on our website, informing people about the latest update on our budget. That pointed them to two ways to interact: They could come to a traditional community meeting to get their questions answered or complete a paper survey.

"We also created a Web version of that same survey so families can communicate electronically, and we recorded a phone caller survey. We use our e-mail list to broadcast that we're seeking feedback ... and use Twitter so people are aware of these opportunities.

"All of the things we have created are both to inform people about difficult decisions we're facing and give them some voice in the ways we might tackle those decisions-as opposed to simply having it done to them and then asking what happened."

SEE-THROUGH BUDGET
"I do believe you promote through education," says Nicholas Gledich, superintendent of Colorado Springs School District 11. "Half of your battle is completed when you're dealing with an educated public.

"We closed six schools several years ago, and we sold one of the facilities recently. We took that money to put in air-conditioning at one of our inner-city elementary schools. We're educating the public on what we're doing with our dollars and being fully transparent on how we spend our money."

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