Feature Article - June 2019
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Schools & School Districts

A Look at Trends in Schools & School Districts


Similar to colleges and universities, local schools and school districts were heavily affected by state-level funding cuts in the wake of the Great Recession. And while states have begun to restore funding for K-12 education in recent years, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reports that progress has been slow and uneven.

Importantly, many states have "… shifted school funding responsibilities somewhat from the state to localities since the recession, exacerbating education inequities."

Elizabeth McNichol, senior fellow at the CBPP, reports that while the cuts have had an impact on school operating budgets for teacher salaries and classroom needs, capital spending has also fallen sharply. "And state and local spending on infrastructure in general is at a historic low as a share of the economy," she writes.

The Industry Report has reflected these challenges over the past decade, as school respondents have struggled with budgets and operating costs. Here, we'll take a look at trends reported by respondents to the Industry Report survey who represent schools and school districts—making up 9.8 percent of all respondents.

Respondents from school districts were most likely to be from the Midwest. Some 33.3 percent of school respondents said they were from the Midwest. They were followed by the Northeast (22.2 percent), the South Central region (16.3 percent) and the West (16.3 percent). Finally, 11.9 percent of school respondents were from the South Atlantic states.

School respondents were much more likely to be located in rural areas than suburban or urban areas. More than half (53.7 percent) of school respondents said they were located in rural areas. This compares with 31 percent of non-school respondents. Another 36.3 percent of school respondents were from suburban communities, and just 9.7 percent were from urban communities.

On average, school respondents said they serve a population of 36,160 people. More than three-quarters (75.5 percent) of school respondents said they reach a population of 20,000 or fewer people, compared with 54.5 percent of non-school respondents. Conversely, while 21.8 percent of non-school respondents reach a population of 100,000 or more, just 7.9 percent of school respondents reach a population of that size.

The vast majority of schools covered by the survey were public. Some 89.9 percent of school respondents said they were with public schools. Another 8.6 percent were with private nonprofits, while the remainder are with private for-profit or "other" types of organizations.

On average, school respondents said they manage 8.7 facilities. Some 40.9 percent said they manage between one and three facilities, while another 19.7 percent manage 10 or more facilities. That leaves 39.4 percent in the middle, managing between four and nine facilities.

School respondents were slightly less likely than non-school respondents to report that they have partnered with outside organizations. Some 85.9 percent of school respondents said they had formed such partnerships (down from 86.2 percent in 2018), compared with 88.1 percent of non-school respondents. The most common partners for schools were: local schools (60.7 percent of school respondents said they had partnered with them); local government (51.1 percent); state government (45.2 percent); federal government (25.9 percent); and nonprofit organizations (20 percent).

School respondents were much more likely than non-school respondents to report that the primary audience served by their facilities was made up of teenagers. Some 57.2 percent of school respondents said teens are their primary audience, compared with just 3.4 percent of non-school respondents. Another 21.7 percent of school respondents said they primarily serve all ages, while 12.3 percent said they reach children ages 4 to 12. Another 7.2 percent said adults are their main audience, and the remainder reach infants and toddlers.