The Partnership Fund
The Partnership Fund is a strategy that Boston Public Schools (BPS) began implementing in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 to increase equity and close opportunity gaps. The Partnership Fund was BPS’s first application of the Opportunity Index as a tool for allocating resources. The Partnership Fund is rooted in the belief that schools are the units of change and that school leaders, with the right supports and systems, will propel their schools and communities forward.
The Partnership Fund allocates funding in school budgets to a subset of BPS schools that serve the greatest concentrations of high need students, according to the Opportunity Index. Schools receiving these funds are empowered and held accountable to choose and fund opportunities to provide ongoing direct services that best meet the unique needs of their school community and advance their school improvement goals.
Prior to FY19, BPS earmarked a pool of central office funds to contract non-profit organizations to partner with a subset of schools across the district. Central office leaders made decisions about which partners were funded, how much funding they received and which schools they served. In fiscal year 2018 (FY18), BPS allocated $5.7 million in partnership funding to 13 partner organizations working in a total of 70 schools.
In FY19, shifted this funding structure in order to equitably empower schools to make partnership fund decisions. In doing so, BPS allocated over $6 million directly to 60 schools who then funded over 90 School-Community Partners. These partners provide a wide range of supplemental services including, but not limited to after school enrichment, social emotional services, college access support, and workforce development.
Rationale for a New Approach
The old approach for allocating centralized dollars to partner organizations presented a number of challenges that did not align with our core values or theory of change, including:
- District-funded partnerships were not equitably distributed; there was little correlation between currently funded partnerships and schools serving the greatest concentrations of high need students.
- Schools had little to no voice in selection of partners receiving district funding; schools, as the unit of change, were not empowered and held accountable to make the decisions that were best for their school communities.
- Schools and nonprofit organizations not currently receiving district partnership dollars were unable to access this funding; there was no transparent or open system for accessing partnership funds.
How It Works
BPS uses the Opportunity Index to equitably allocate about $6 million in Partnership Funds to a subset of schools identified as serving the greatest concentration of high need students. Eligible schools receive a per-pupil partnership funding allocation as part of their school budget. These funds are loaded into a restricted budget line that is then used to fund partner opportunities.
School leaders, together with their School Site Council and other key members of the school community, participate in a data-driven process to decide which partner(s) to fund. These decisions are signed off on by the School Site Council and then submitted to BPS central office leadership for review and approval.
From there, the Office of Engagement’s School-Community Partnerships team and other key central office departments work with partners to facilitate and broker partnerships between interested schools and partner organizations. Once partnerships are finalized, schools and partners will sign non-legally binding partnership agreements and complete appropriate procurement processes.