In 2012, Public Education Network (PEN) closed its doors after 21 years. PEN was a network of local education funds (LEFs) -- community based organizations in high poverty school districts across the United States -- that continue to work with their school districts and communities to improve public education for the nation's most disadvantaged children.

At the national level, PEN raised the importance of public engagement as an essential component of education reform. It brought the voice of LEFs and the communities they represent into the national education debate. Finally, PEN gave voice to the essential nature of the connection between quality public education and a healthy and thriving democracy.

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School Finance Toolkit: How to Create a Community Guide to Your School District's Budget

June 7, 2001

If your community-based organization would like to launch a school finance initiative in your community, you can use this toolkit as a starting point. The toolkit walks through the major steps organizations have gone through in their own initiatives, offering advice and examples of tools you can adapt for your own use. The toolkit explores the major challenges organizations have faced in this work, and how they have addressed those challenges. And the toolkit points you toward other resources that can help you find and analyze information about school finance. This toolkit is not itself a primer on school finance. Except in passing, it does not explain how school funding works in school districts. You will have to obtain this kind of background information from other resources (some listed in this toolkit) and as you go along.The toolkit contains five major sections:Get Started. This section helps you set a mission for your school finance initiative, organize your people to get the job done, and find the resources to get the job done.Engage the Public. This section discusses strategies for engaging the public up-front, finding out what citizens want to know about school finance -- and why.Crunch the Numbers. This section addresses the nitty-gritty work of creating a community guide to the school budget, offering helpful tips on finding, analyzing, and presenting information effectively.Put the Numbers to Work. This section talks about ways you can use the information you have gathered as a catalyst for community-wide discussions of school finance and its impact on school quality.Resources. This section contains a variety of tools used by community-based organizations in their school finance initiatives, everything from town meeting agendas to focus group questions to budget analysis spreadsheets. This section also contains references to many sources of data about school finance, many of them just a mouse-click or toll-free call away.

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