Feature Article - June 2011
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Schools & School Districts

A Look at Trends in Schools & School Districts

By Emily Tipping

Many of the problems seen by parks and recreation agencies are also felt among respondents from schools and school districts. According to a National League of Cities survey from July 2010, city- and county-run schools have been facing significant cutbacks.

"Economic conditions have eroded local revenue bases and, particularly in education, state budget shortfalls are resulting in significant cuts to funding for local schools," the report states. "In response, teaching jobs and special programs are being eliminated, class sizes are increasing, and case loads for school aides and counselors are on the rise."

Furthermore, many states, counties and local government entities see sports and physical education as the ideal first cut. Thus, many of our respondents from schools are not reporting the same level of optimism as other industry segments.

A Portrait of School Respondents

According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 49.4 million students attended public elementary and secondary schools this year. Another 5.8 million students were in private schools. As of 2008-09 there were about 13,800 public school districts, with about 99,000 public schools, including around 4,700 charter schools. And in 2007-08, there were about 33,700 private schools offering kindergarten and higher grades.

In this year's survey, the vast majority of school respondents reported in from public schools. Just 6 percent of these respondents said they worked for private nonprofit organizations, and 94 percent were working for public organizations.

Respondents from schools and school districts were most likely to report in from the Midwest, with 37 percent of the responses coming from that region. They were followed by the South Central region, with 21.2 percent of the response; the Northeast, with 17.8 percent; and the West with 15.8 percent. Just 8.2 percent of school respondents came from the South Atlantic.

Nearly half (48.6 percent) of respondents from schools and school districts came from rural communities, a substantial departure from the percentage of all respondents who were working in rural communities (just 32.8 percent). More than a third (34.9 percent) of school respondents worked in suburban communities. Just 16.4 percent worked in urban areas.

After parks respondents, those from schools and school districts were second most likely to indicate that they managed 20 or more separate facilities. Some 13.6 percent said they managed 20 or more facilities. Another 15 percent said they manage 10 to 20 facilities. That said, there was still a larger number of respondents who reported that they manage three or fewer facilities. Some 38.1 percent of schools respondents manage between one and three facilities.

Local schools were the most commonly chosen partner for all respondents, with well over half (58.4 percent) of respondents indicating they had formed partnerships with local schools. Thus, it should come as no surprise that respondents from schools reported that they were highly likely to partner with other organizations themselves. A substantial majority (90.9 percent) of school respondents said they had formed partnerships. Their most common partners included local schools (65.4 percent of school respondents partnered with other local schools), local government (57.7 percent), state government (43.1 percent), nonprofit organizations (28.5 percent) and the federal government (23.8 percent).