Feature Article - June 2013
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Schools & School Districts

A Look at Trends in Schools & School Districts

Over the past several years of the Industry Report, respondents from schools have been extremely hard hit by budget cuts following the recession. This year, schools respondents are slightly more optimistic, though the survey was taken before the sequester went into effect. The dramatic cuts to various recipients of federal dollars could potentially slow the recovery for schools and school districts across the country, according to some reports.

A report from the American Association of School Administrators painted a dreary picture of the effects of the sequester on the nation's public schools.

"The blind cuts of sequestration, made regardless of program demand or effectiveness, represent poor, short-sighted policy," said AASA executive director Daniel Domenech. "The cuts represent billions of lost dollars for the Department of Education, and will affect millions of students, classrooms and teachers by increasing class sizes, reducing programs and eliminating educator jobs."

More than three-quarters of respondents to the AASA survey (77.9 percent) said their district would have to eliminate jobs as a result of the sequester. And, for the first time in four years and 14 surveys the association has administered covering the effects of the recession on the nation's schools, there was a significant increase in the percentage of respondents who reported that special education funding would take a hit.

Nearly half of respondents from schools in our 2013 Industry Report survey (45.6 percent) reported in from the Midwest—far outstripping the school response from other regions. Some 19.1 percent of school respondents were from the Northeast, 16.6 percent were from the South Central region, 11.2 percent were from the West, and just 7.5 percent were from the South Atlantic states.

School respondents were more likely to be from rural communities than other respondents. More than half (51.3 percent) of schools respondents indicated they were from rural communities, compared with 33.8 percent of all respondents. Another 31.7 percent of school respondents were from suburban communities, and 17.1 percent were from urban areas.

The vast majority of school respondents represent public schools. Some 92.9 percent indicated they work for public organizations. This compares with 64.2 percent of non-school respondents. Another 6.2 percent of school respondents said they worked for private nonprofit organizations.

Schools respondents manage 8.1 facilities on average, slightly more than the 6.8 average among all facility types.

Schools are slightly more likely than non-school respondents to form partnerships with other organizations. Some 86.4 percent of school respondents indicated they form partnerships, compared with 85 percent of non-school respondents. The most common partnerships among schools and school districts are formed with local schools (61.2 percent of school respondents partner with them), local government (52.9 percent), state government (46.7 percent) and federal government (32.2 percent).

Knowing who is the primary audience for these facility types shines a little light on the types of schools that predominate the survey response. Some 54.2 percent of school respondents said their primary audience for their main facility was teens. They were far more likely than non-school respondents to have teens as their primary audience. Just 4.1 percent of non-school respondents said teens were their primary audience. Another 28.2 percent of school respondents said they served an all-ages audience, and 8.8 percent said their primary audience was children ages 4 to 12.

Revenues & Expenditures

School respondents were among the least likely to report that their revenues had increased in every year covered by the survey. That said, the percentage reporting an increase is slightly higher than in past years. From 2009 to 2010, just 9.6 percent of school respondents said their revenues had increased. This number fell to 8.4 percent for 2010 to 2011. At the same time, more than one-third saw their revenues decrease in 2010 (33.6 percent) and in 2011 (36.6 percent). Among school respondents in 2013, though, 14.7 percent said their revenues had increased from 2011 to 2012, and 23.7 percent said revenues have fallen. (See Figure 47.)

At the same time, schools report that their operating expenditures are on the rise. Operating expenditures among school respondents increased by 16.6 percent from an average of $1,303,000 in fiscal 2011 to an average of $1,519,000 in fiscal 2012. Respondents projected operating expenditures to rise again in 2013, before falling again to $1,474,000. This means that while all respondents are projecting a 4.1 increase in operating expenditures, school respondents are expecting operating expenses to fall by 3 percent.

Schools were just about as likely as the entire survey population to report that they had taken action to reduce operating expenditures at their facilities. Some 86.1 percent of school respondents said they had taken such action. More than half (53.8 percent) said they had acted to improve energy efficiency at their facilities. Other common measures taken include reducing staff (41.2 percent), cutting services and programs (40.8 percent) or increasing fees (30.3 percent).