Feature Article - June 2015
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Schools & School Districts

A Look at Trends in Schools & School Districts

After increasing by at least 1 percent per year from 1996 to 2008, when the United States began to feel the impact of the recession, per-pupil spending at the K-12 level began to decline in 2011, and continued to fall in 2012, the last year for which data are available.

There is no doubt that schools and school districts have felt the budget crunch, and many have been forced to cut programs as a result. Unfortunately, the programs most typically on the chopping block are related to athletics, arts and recreation, as more dollars must be funneled toward instructional measures.

The State of the Industry Report has reflected this crunch for the past several years, with respondents from schools and school districts more likely than any other respondents to report falling revenues, as well as other challenges.

In this section, we'll take a look at the current state of affairs for schools and school districts.

Schools respondents were much more likely to be from the Midwest than from any other region. Some 39.5 percent of schools respondents reported that they were located in the Midwest. They were followed by the South Central region (18.1 percent), the Northeast (17.2 percent), the West (14.4 percent) and the South Atlantic (10.7 percent).

Schools respondents were much more likely to report from rural communities than urban or suburban areas. Nearly half (49.3 percent) of schools respondents were in rural communities, compared with just 32.2 percent of non-schools respondents. On the other hand, while 16.3 percent of schools were in urban communities, 24.7 percent of non-schools respondents were in urban areas. And, while 34.4 percent of schools respondents were in the suburbs, 43.1 percent of non-schools respondents reported from suburban communities.

As in past surveys, the vast majority of schools respondents are from public schools. Some 89.8 percent of schools respondents said they worked for public organizations. Another 7.9 percent said they were with private nonprofit organizations, and 2.3 percent were with private, for-profit organizations.

Schools respondents manage an average of 7.6 facilities, an increase from 2014, when the average was 6.9. Schools are slightly more likely than non-schools to report that they manage 10 or more facilities. While 19 percent of schools respondents said they manage 10 or more facilities, 17.1 percent of non-schools respondents manage 10 or more.

Schools respondents were more likely than non-schools respondents to report that they had partnered with other organizations. While 85.2 percent of non-schools respondents had formed such partnerships, 89.7 percent of schools respondents had done so. The most common partners for schools and school districts included: local schools (66.7 percent of schools respondents partnered with them); local government (51.2 percent); state government (50.2 percent); nonprofit organizations (31.5 percent); and federal government (26.8 percent).

More than half of schools respondents (53 percent) said that the primary audience served by their facilities was made up of teenagers ages 13 to 18. This compares with just 4.3 percent of non-schools respondents who primarily reach teens. Another 27 percent of schools respondents said their primary audience was all ages, and 12.6 percent said their primary audience was children ages 4 to 12.

Revenues & Expenditures

Again schools were the least likely to report that their revenues had increased in the years covered by the survey, although the percentage reporting an increase in revenues did grow slightly from 2013 to 2014. While 15.8 percent of respondents in 2014 said revenues had grown from 2012 to 2013, 17.5 percent of respondents this year report an increase in revenues from 2013 to 2014. Looking forward, similar numbers expect further revenue increases over the next two years. (See Figure 48.) At the same time, though, 15.5 percent of schools respondents reported that revenues decreased from 2013 to 2014, and 21.8 percent expect a decrease in 2015. More than six in 10 expect revenues to remain stable over the next couple of years.

After falling 19.1 percent from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2013, schools respondents reported an increase to their average operating budgets of 39.1 in 2014, from $1,229,000 to $1,710,000. From fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2014, this represents a 12.6 percent increase. Looking forward, schools respondents project a more modest increase of 1.5 percent between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2016, to an average annual operating expenditure of $1,735,000.

Schools respondents were more likely in 2015 to report that they had taken actions to reduce their expenditures. Some 80.4 percent of schools respondents said they had done so, compared with 74.7 percent in 2014. That said, they were slightly less likely than non-schools respondents to have taken such actions. Some 84.6 percent of non-schools respondents had acted to reduce their expenditures. The most common measures taken by schools respondents to reduce their expenditures included: improving energy efficiency (53.6 percent); reducing staff (32.1 percent); putting construction or renovation plans on hold (22 percent); cutting programs and services (17.2 percent); and increasing fees (16.3 percent).