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).

School Facilities

School respondents report largely stable numbers of people utilizing their facilities over the course of the survey. More than half (53.8 percent) said the number of people using their facilities had remained the same from 2011 to 2012. Nearly half (49.8 percent) predict the same for 2013, and more than half (54.2 percent) expect steady numbers in 2014. (See Figure 48.)

School respondents were much less likely than most respondents to report an increase in usage at their facilities for every year covered by the survey. While 52.7 percent of all respondents said usage had increased from 2011 to 2012, just 38 percent of schools said the same. Likewise, 54.4 percent of all respondents saw increasing usage in 2013, compared with just 42.6 percent of schools.

There was virtually no change from 2012 to 2013 in the percentage of school respondents who indicated that they have plans for construction. While 46.2 percent of 2012 respondents reported that they were planning for construction over the next several years, 46.3 percent of school respondents in 2013 said the same. That said, school respondents in 2013 are more likely to be planning new construction than school respondents in 2012. In 2012, 17.9 percent of school respondents planned to build new. In 2013, that number increased to 23.1 percent. (See Figure 49.)

School respondents in 2013 are much less likely to be planning construction than non-school respondents. While 63.9 percent of non-schools respondents have plans to build over the next three years, just 53.7 percent of schools respondents have such plans.

The amount schools plan to spend on construction has been falling for the past several years, ultimately dropping 25.6 percent from an average of $6,671,000 in 2011 to an average of $4,963,000 in 2013. This brings school construction spending closer to the average across the board. While school respondents in 2011 were planning to spend 69.2 percent more than the across-the-board average, by 2013, the difference has fallen to 19.9 percent.

There was very little change in the features and amenities commonly found at school respondents' facilities from 2012 to 2013. Some features changed position on the list, but the top 10 remains the same. The features most commonly found include: locker rooms; bleachers and seating; indoor sports courts for sports such as basketball and volleyball; concession areas; natural turf sports fields for sports like baseball and football; outdoor running tracks; classrooms and meeting rooms; fitness centers; outdoor sports courts for sports such as tennis and basketball; and playgrounds.

This year's survey saw a further decrease in the percentage of school respondents who indicate that they have plans to add features at their facilities. That number has fallen from 32.9 percent in 2011, to 29.7 percent in 2012, and 24.8 percent in 2013. This compares to 40.5 percent of non-schools respondents in 2013 who have plans to add features at their facilities over the next three years.

The most commonly planned additions include:

  1. Synthetic turf sports fields (41.7 percent of those with plans to make additions)
  2. Bleachers and seating (31.7 percent)
  3. Outdoor running track (23.3 percent)
  4. Locker rooms (18.3 percent)
  5. Concession areas (15 percent)
  6. Classrooms and meeting rooms (13.3 percent)
  7. Indoor sports courts (11.7 percent)
  8. Fitness centers (10 percent)
  9. Exercise studio rooms (10 percent)
  10. Natural turf sports fields (10 percent)

Some features actually saw an increase in the number of respondents with plans to add them. This includes synthetic turf fields (up from 41.3 percent in 2012, and 37.5 percent in 2011); bleachers and seating (up from 28.6 percent in 2012); outdoor running tracks (up from 9.5 percent); locker rooms (up from 14.3 percent); concession areas (up from 12.7 percent); and exercise studio rooms (up from 9.5 percent). Natural turf sports fields and indoor sports courts did not appear among the top 10 in 2012. These two features replaced playgrounds and outdoor sports courts on the list.


As in past years, youth sports teams continue to dominate as the programming most commonly found among school respondents' facilities. Some 82.8 percent of school respondents in 2013 indicated that youth sports teams are among their program offerings.

Other common programs among school respondents include: educational programs (67.8 percent); sports tournaments or races (54.5 percent); fitness programs (53.2 percent); sport training (39.9 percent); individual sports activities such as running or swim clubs (39.9 percent); performing arts programs such as theater and dance (35.6 percent); swimming programs (35.2 percent); holiday events and other special events (34.8 percent); and special needs programs (33 percent).

Programs that saw growth from 2012 include: youth sports teams (up from 78 percent); and fitness programs (up from 52.5 percent).

Some 16.9 percent of school respondents reported that they have plans to add programming over the next three years. This is an increase from 2012, when 12.3 percent had such plans. However, it is much lower than the 31.9 percent of non-school respondents who plan to add programming.

The top planned programs among school respondents include:

  1. Fitness programs (no change from 2012)
  2. Youth sports teams (did not appear in 2012)
  3. Mind-body/balance (no change)
  4. Educational programs (down from No. 2)
  5. Sport-specific training (did not appear in 2012)
  6. Sports tournaments or races (up from No. 7)
  7. Adult sport teams (did not appear in 2012)
  8. Individual sports activities (no change)
  9. Day camps/summer camps (no change)
  10. Festivals and concerts (did not appear in 2012)

While fitness remains at the top of the list for another year, there are many programs among the top 10 that did not appear in 2012, including: youth sports teams; sport-specific training; adult sports teams; and festivals and concerts. These programs replaced holiday events, swimming programs, aquatic exercise programs, and programs for active older adults, which dropped off the list this year.

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