Journey with us to California’s Inland Empire as we consider this foundational question: What do school districts spend their funding on? Special guest Rich De Nava, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, helps us explore where schools devote their money. Hint: the vast majority is spent on people. 

In his role, Rich works with business officials from 33 school districts in the county. He explains that, by and large, about 85-90 percent of a typical school district’s budget goes toward salaries and benefits of employees. He also walks us through the many people students might see or interact with on a given day whose salaries are paid by the district, starting of course, with teachers – and including some who fulfill vital roles somewhat more behind the scenes.

Even with the vast majority of district funds dedicated to personnel, California schools in general are severely understaffed compared to many other states due to the overall lack of state funding.

In addition, about 10-15 percent of a district’s expenditures go towards operations – the “stuff and services” as Rich calls them. This includes everything from utilities and building maintenance to classroom supplies, technology, transportation, professional development for staff, and more. “It’s a small number compared to the salaries and benefits piece, but it’s equally crucial,” he says.

Finally, we consider another vital question: How discretionary, really, are a school district’s decisions about spending?  

More About Rich De Nava

Rich currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services at San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools and previously served as the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services at San Jacinto Unified School District. Rich has worked in education since 2003. Prior to his work in education, he served as an Officer in the U.S. Army.

In 2019, Rich was elected to serve as Vice President for CASBO. He is one of four elected officers of the statewide association. During his tenure with CASBO, he previously served two terms as the Eastern Section director. He has also served as the organization’s treasurer, secretary, president-elect, president and past president for the Eastern Section Executive Board.


The California Association of School Business Officials is the premier resource for professional development and business best practices for California's school business leaders. CASBO is dedicated to promoting excellence and professionalism in all aspects of school business. Founded in 1928, CASBO serves more than 24,000 members by providing certifications and training, promoting business best practices and creating opportunities for professional collaboration. CASBO members represent every facet of school business management and operations. The association offers public school leaders an entire career's worth of growth opportunities.

About your guide, Paul Richman

Paul served as the first executive director of the California State Parent Teachers Association, as well as chief of staff for the California School Boards Association. Most recently he has helped lead a state coalition, the Alliance for Continuous Improvement and is part of the team that produces the Inside California Education public TV series. Throughout his career, he has focused on raising understanding about school finance issues – and raising the state’s per-student investment.