Feature Article - June 2022
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Trends in Schools & School Districts

A Look at Trends in Schools and School Districts

By Emily Tipping

In the next few pages, we'll consider Industry Report survey responses from professionals working for schools and school districts, who made up 11.2% of all respondents.

The largest number of school respondents were located in the Midwestern states. Some 41.3% of school respondents said they were from this region. The Northeast followed, with 22.2% of school respondents. Less than one-fifth of school respondents were located in the West (17.5%) and the South Central region (15.9%). Very few, just 3.2%, were located in the South Atlantic region.

As usual, school respondents were most likely to be located in rural communities, and were far more likely to hail from rural areas than other respondents. More than half (52.4%) of school respondents said they were located in rural communities, compared with 34.5% of non-school respondents. Another 31.7% of school respondents said they were from suburban communities, and 15.9% were located in urban areas.

The schools represented by the survey are overwhelmingly public, with 93.7% of school respondents indicating that they work for public schools. Another 4.8% said they were with private, nonprofit schools, and 1.6% were with private, for-profit schools.

School respondents tend to reach smaller populations than other respondent types. In 2022, school respondents reached an average population of 22,410 people, up from 14,060 in 2021, but still lower than 2020, when they reached an average of 30,080 people. Nearly three-quarters (73.8%) of school respondents said they reach a population of 20,000 or fewer people, compared with 50.7% of non-school respondents. And while 18.5% of non-school respondents said they reach a population of 100,000 people or more, just 4.9% of school respondents said they serve a population of at least 100,000 people.

On average, school respondents said they manage 7.1 facilities, up from 6 in 2021, but a bit lower than 2020 (7.6) and 2019 (8.7). Nearly half (49.2%) of school respondents said they manage between one and three facilities, while 36.1% manage four to nine, and 14.8% manage 10 or more different facilities.

Respondents from schools and school districts in 2022 were more likely than those in 2021 to report that they had partnered with outside organizations. Some 92.1% of school respondents said they had partnered with others, up from 90.4% in 2021, and 86.8% in 2020. This compares with just 81.1% of non-school respondents who partnered with other organizations in 2022. The most common partners for school respondents include: other local schools (81%), state government (65.1%), local government (55.6%), federal government (36.5%), and colleges and universities (25.4%).

School respondents were by far the most likely to report that teens age 13 to 18 made up their primary audience. In fact, more than six in 10 (61.9%) school respondents said they primarily reached teenagers, compared with just 5.4% of non-school respondents. Another 20.6% of school respondents said they primarily reached all ages, while 7.9% said children ages 4 to 12 are their main audience, and another 7.9% said adults were their main audience. A small number, 1.6%, said their primary audience was made up of infants and toddlers.

Revenues & Expenditures

In typical years, schools tend to report stable revenues from one year to the next, with a majority not seeing any change, either up or down. That said, they do feel the impact of major events, such as the recession in the late aughts and, obviously, the coronavirus pandemic. When these types of events lead to a decrease in revenues for schools and school districts, they tend to take longer to show recovery in the Industry Report results.

In 2020, 45.9% of school respondents reported that their revenues had decreased from the preceding year, a big jump over the more typical numbers reporting decreases, which tend to hover just above 10%. The year 2021 saw a continuation of this trend, with 37.1% reporting a decrease in revenues, 46.8% indicating that revenues had held steady, and just 16.1% reporting an increase. (See Figure 54.)

School respondents begin to be more likely than usual to expect increasing revenues in 2022, with 31.7% expecting an increase, 46% expecting no change and 22.2% expecting a decrease. And in 2023, a third (33.3%) of school respondents are expecting their revenues to increase, while 48.3% expect no change, and 18.3% expect a decrease.

While the average operating expense for all respondents to the Industry Report survey showed a 5.2% decrease, school respondents saw an 8.8% increase to their average operating cost, from $1,690,000 in 2020 to $1,840,000 in 2021.

Looking forward, they expect virtually no change to their operating costs in 2022, reporting a 0.5% decrease overall, to an average of $1,830,000. And in 2023, school respondents are projecting their operating expenses to increase 4.9% over 2022, to an average of $1,920,000.