Feature Article - June 2021
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Trends in Schools & School Districts

A Look at Trends in Schools & School Districts


Here, we'll take a look at trends reported by respondents to the Industry Report survey who represent schools and school districts—making up 8.3% of all respondents.

As usual, the largest number of school respondents by far are located in the Midwest. Some 44.3% of school respondents said they were located in this region. It was followed distantly by the Northeast, where 18.3% of school respondents are located. Another 16.5% were from the South Central region, while 13% were from the West and 7.8% were from the South Atlantic states.

As is usually the case, school respondents were far more likely to be located in rural areas than other respondents. Nearly half (48.2%) of school respondents said they were located in rural communities, compared with 30.5% of non-school respondents. Another third (33.3%) of school respondents were found in suburban communities (compared with 45.2% of non-school respondents), while just 18.4% were located in urban areas, compared with 24.3% of non-school respondents.

More than nine out of 10 (90.4%) of school respondents said they worked for public schools, while 9.6% were with private, nonprofit schools

School respondents tend to reach the smallest of populations—no surprise given their tendency to be located in rural communities. In 2021, they reached an average population size of 14,060 people, down dramatically from 30,080 in 2020. Well over three-quarters (78.3%) of school respondents said they reach a population of 20,000 or fewer, compared with 45.8% of non-school respondents. Conversely, only 1.7% of school respondents said they reach a population of 100,000 or more, compared with 22.7% of non-school respondents.

On average, school respondents said that they manage an average of 6 facilities, down from 7.6 in 2020 and 8.7 in 2019. More than half (53%) said they manage between one and three facilities, while 34.8% manage from four to nine. Just 12.2% said they manage 10 or more different facilities.

School respondents in 2021 were more likely than those in 2020 to report that they had partnered with outside organizations. Some 90.4% of school respondents said they made such partnerships, up from 86.8% in 2020. This compares with 87.7% of non-school respondents. The most common partners for school respondents were: other local schools (65.2% of school respondents said they had partnered with other schools); local government (55.7%); state government (41.7%); federal government (27%); and nonprofit organizations (24.3%).

School respondents were much more likely than non-school respondents to report that the primary audience for their facilities was made up of teenagers from 13 to 18. Some 54.8% of school respondents said teens are their primary audience, compared with just 4.2% of non-school respondents. Another 24.3% of school respondents said they primarily reach all ages, while 11.3% said adults are their main audience. Some 8.7% said children ages 4 to 12 are their main audience, and 0.9% said college students are their main audience.

Revenues & Expenditures

Schools are generally much more likely to report even revenues from one year to the next than other types of respondents. However, when there is a big external impact, such as budget cuts due to the recession over a decade ago, or a drop due to coronavirus, as seen over the past year, it generally takes schools slightly longer to recover. This can be seen in this year's data, with schools much less likely than usual to report no changes to their revenues over the next several years.

In 2020, 41.4% of school respondents reported that their revenues had remained the same as in 2019—a big drop from the norm, which generally has between two-thirds to three-quarters of school respondents reporting no change. Just 12.6% of school respondents in 2020 said their revenues had increased, and 45.9% reported a decrease in revenues. (See Figure 53.)

In 2021, schools are expecting slightly more stability, though still nothing like a normal year. Some 21.9% of school respondents said they expect their revenues to be up in 2021, while 42.9% projected no change, and more than a third (35.2%) said they expect revenues to decrease this year.

Looking forward to 2022, nearly half (49.5%) of school respondents expect their revenues to remain steady, while 28.2% are expecting revenues to increase, and 22.3% are expecting revenues to decrease.