Feature Article - June 2012
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Schools & School Districts

A Look at Trends in Schools & School Districts

While many facility types have started to see signs of the economic recovery taking hold, schools and school districts are still deeply mired in ongoing fallout from the downturn. According to a recent study from the American Association of School Administrators, school districts are already operating in their fourth consecutive year of budget cuts, and do not anticipate returning to pre-recession funding levels for several years.

Respondents to the AASA survey projected new budget cuts coming in the 2013-14 school year, though not as deep as in earlier years. More than three-quarters (81.4 percent) of districts described their district as inadequately funded, and nearly three-quarters (71.2 percent) reported a cut in state/local revenues between the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years. Two-thirds (68.2 percent) of respondents had eliminated positions in 2011-12, and 65.5 percent anticipated doing so in 2012-13.

"The recession continues to have a long-term impact on learning and achievement for today's students," said Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director, in a press release about the report. "I look forward to, one day, releasing a survey that talks about the end of the recession and the refunding of the nation's public schools."

(Learn more about the AASA study at www.aasa.org/research.aspx.)

Recreation Management's survey results from schools and school districts bear much of the same difficult news: continuing struggles with revenues and budgets.

Respondents from schools and school districts made up the third largest cohort in the State of the Industry Survey, with 10.5 percent of the response. This is up from 7.4 percent in 2011.

School respondents were most likely to be from the Midwest, and were far more likely to be from this region than the general survey population. While 28.7 percent of all respondents were from the Midwest, some 44.1 percent of schools respondents call this region home. They were also more likely than general respondents to be from the Northeast (18.5 percent vs. 17.8 percent). They were less likely than the general survey population to be from the South Atlantic (10 percent vs. 18.8 percent), the South Central region (13.3 percent vs. 13.6 percent) or the West (13.7 percent vs. 20.6 percent).

School respondents also were far more likely to be from rural communities than many other survey respondents. While around a third (33.5 percent) of the entire survey population call rural communities home, more than half (51.2 percent) of school respondents are from rural communities. The next largest group—around a third, at 35.1 percent—are from suburban communities. School respondents were least likely to be from urban communities, with just 13.7 percent of the response.

The schools represented by our respondents were overwhelmingly public, with 92.4 percent of respondents indicating they work for public organizations. Another 4.7 percent said they worked for private nonprofit schools, while the remainder work for private for-profit schools.

Respondents from schools were far less likely to manage three or fewer facilities, when compared with the general survey population. While 58.8 percent of all facility types manage three or fewer, that number falls to 35.5 percent for schools and school districts. They were most likely to report that they managed between four and nine facilities (39.8 percent), and nearly a quarter said they managed 10 or more facilities (24.6 percent).

In an effort to determine which types of schools—primary, secondary or something else—are covered in the survey, we asked respondents to tell us the primary audience served by their main facility. Slightly more than half (51.7 percent) of school respondents said their primary audience was teenagers between 13 and 18 years old. Another quarter (24.9 percent) said their primary audience was all ages, perhaps reflecting a tendency of some communities to develop joint-use agreements or otherwise allow community members to use their facilities. Some 14.4 percent named 4-to-12-year-olds as their primary audience, while 6.2 percent said adults 19 to 64 were their audience, and 2.4 percent named college students.

Some 88 percent of schools respondents said they formed partnerships with organizations outside of their own. In addition, local schools are the most common partner selected for facilities of all types. More than half (56.2 percent) of all respondents said they partner with local schools. Local schools are also the most common partner for school respondents, with 62.2 percent indicating they partnered with other local schools. They were followed by local government (54.5 percent), state government (45.5 percent), nonprofit organizations (25.8 percent) and federal government (25.4 percent).