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Feature Article - June 2017

Schools & School Districts

A Look at Trends in Schools & School Districts



Just like colleges and universities, local schools and school districts are still feeling the impact of budget cuts made—particularly at the state level—back when the recession began. In fact, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, after adjusting for inflation, 35 states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent year available) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession really began to have an impact. This is problematic because in most cases, schools get nearly half of their funding from the states. In 2017, the research showed, at least 23 states planned to provide less "general" or "formula" funding, the main form of state support for elementary and secondary schools, than when the recession took hold in 2008.

Respondents to our Industry Report survey from schools, who make up 9.9 percent of all respondents, reflected these challenges, with budgets and plans continuing to struggle.

By far the largest percentage of school respondents were from the Midwest. Some 43.2 percent of school respondents said they were located in this region. They were distantly followed by the South Central region, where 17.2 percent of school respondents call home. Some 16.6 percent of school respondents were located in the Northeast, while 11.8 percent were found in the South Atlantic states, and 10.7 percent were from the West. Just 0.6 percent of school respondents said they were located outside the United States.

School respondents were much more likely than others to be located in rural communities. More than half (50.9 percent) of school respondents said they were in rural communities, compared with 37.4 percent of non-school respondents. Another 35.5 percent of school respondents ported in from suburban areas, and 13.6 percent were located in urban communities.

On average, school respondents said they serve a population of 34,300 people, the smallest population size of any subcategory in the survey. Nearly three-quarters (72.1 percent) of school respondents said that they reached a population of 20,000 or fewer people, compared with 44.7 percent of non-school respondents. Conversely, only 7.6 percent of school respondents said they reach a population of 100,000 or more, compared with 23.6 percent of non-school respondents.

The vast majority of schools covered by the survey are public. Some 89.5 percent of school respondents said they were with public schools. Another 8.1 percent were with private nonprofit organizations, and 1.7 percent said they were with private for-profit organizations. Another 0.6 percent, said they were with other types of organizations.

On average, school respondents said they manage 7.8 facilities. Some 43.6 percent said they manage between one and three facilities, while another 17.4 percent manage 10 or more facilities. That leaves another 39 percent in the middle, managing between four and nine facilities.

School respondents were slightly more likely than non-school respondents to report that they had partnered with outside organizations. Some 88.8 percent of school respondents said they had formed such partnerships, compared with 86.6 percent of non-school respondents. The most common partners for school respondents were: local schools (60.6 percent of school respondents said they had partnered with other local schools), local government (57.1 percent), state government (49.4 percent), federal government (32.9 percent), and nonprofit organizations (23.5 percent).

School respondents were far more likely than others to report that the primary audience served by their facilities was made up of teenagers 13 to 18 years old. Some 52.9 percent of school respondents said this was their primary audience, compared with 4.6 percent of non-school respondents. Another 21.5 percent of school respondents said they serve an all-ages audience, and 17.4 percent said children ages 4 to 12 were their primary audience.