A Look at Trends in Schools & School Districts

Schools & School Districts

Schools continue to be the most deeply affected by the recession and the slowness of the recovery, as well as ongoing budgetary challenges at the federal, state and local level. The impact of sequestration—mandatory across-the-board budget cuts in federal education funding—has been felt disproportionately from one state to the next, but there is no doubt that many school districts continue to struggle.

Federal education revenues have historically represented a small portion—just 8 percent to 9 percent—of overall K-12 education spending, according to the AASA, The School Superintendents Association. But although the recession has ended, federal dollars continue to represent an above average (11.8 percent) share of education funding.

The final FY11 and FY12 appropriations agreements cut $1.5 billion in education programs, on top of the sequester, which cut another $2.4 billion from education programs. These cuts arrived at the same time that enrollment in public schools is growing.

"Investing in our nation's future through education will translate into improving student achievement, shrinking achievement gaps and increasing high school graduation rates," said Daniel Domenech, executive director, AASA. "If our country is serious about successfully competing in a 21st century global economy and bringing down unemployment rates, we need to focus on and prioritize investing in education."

Unfortunately, many of the budget cuts that have been necessary among public schools fall more heavily on such programs as athletics and recreation, as remaining dollars are more focused into instructional areas.

Schools respondents are far more likely to be from the Midwest than any other region. Some 46.2 percent reported that the Midwest is their home base. They were distantly followed by the West (17.1 percent), South Central region (16.3 percent), Northeast (12.4 percent) and South Atlantic (8 percent).

Likewise, respondents from schools were much more likely to be from rural areas than urban or suburban communities. More than half (56 percent) of schools respondents said they were located in rural areas. Just 27.6 percent were from suburban communities, and 16.4 percent were from urban areas.

The vast majority of schools respondents are representing public schools. Some 92 percent said they worked for public organizations. Only 6.8 percent said they were with private, nonprofit schools. And 1.2 percent said they were with private, for-profit organizations.

Schools respondents manage 6.9 facilities on average, falling near the average for all respondents of 6.4. This is lower than in 2013, when schools respondents managed an average of 8.1 facilities.

Schools were slightly more likely than other respondents to report that they had formed partnerships with outside organizations. While 83.6 percent of non-school respondents had formed partnerships, 86.4 percent of schools respondents had done so. The most common partnerships were formed with local schools (65.2 percent of schools respondents partnered with them), local government (44.4 percent), state government (43.6 percent), nonprofit organizations (22.4 percent) and federal government (22 percent).

Knowing the primary audience for school respondents' facilities reveals the types of schools primarily covered in the data provided. Similar to 2013, more than half (54.8 percent) of schools respondents said that teens ages 13 to 18 were the primary audience for their main facility. They were followed by those who claimed they served all ages (20.6 percent). Another 14.7 percent said their primary audience was made up of children ages 4 to 12.

Revenues & Expenditures

Schools respondents were again among those least likely to report that their revenues had increased in the years covered by the survey. While just 15.8 percent reported that revenues had increased from 2012 to 2013, 17.4 percent projected an increase in 2014, and 18.5 percent are forecasting an increase for 2015. And, after nearly a quarter (23.7 percent) reported revenue had decreased from 2011 to 2012, the percentage of schools respondents reporting decreasing revenues fell slightly, to 19.2 percent in 2013, and further to 19.1 percent in 2014. By 2015, only 13.1 percent of schools respondents are expecting revenues to fall. (See Figure 48.)

Operating expenditures among schools respondents fell by 19.1 percent from an average of $1,519,000 reported in fiscal 2012 to $1,229,000 in fiscal 2013. In that same time frame, operating expenditures for all respondents also fell, but only by 1.7 percent. Over the course of the next two years, schools respondents expect their operating expenditures to drop further, by 1.5 percent, to an average of $1,211,000 in fiscal 2015. Interestingly, while schools respondents spent 4.3 percent more than the general survey population on operating expenditures in fiscal 2012, by fiscal 2013, they were spending 14 percent less.

Schools were slightly less likely than others to report that they had taken actions to reduce their operating expenditures. While 81.7 percent of non-schools respondents had taken such action, just 74.7 percent of schools respondents had done so.

The most common actions taken by schools respondents to reduce expenditures included improving energy efficiency (50.6 percent of schools respondents had done so), reducing staff (30.3 percent), putting construction and renovation plans on hold (22.4 percent) and cutting programs or services (20.7 percent).

School Facilities

Schools respondents continue to report stable numbers of people using their facilities over the years covered by the survey. Nearly two-thirds (65.6 percent) said there had been no change from 2012 to 2013, up from 53.8 percent who reported no change from 2011 to 2012. Looking forward, 61 percent expect usage to remain stable in 2014, and 66.7 percent expect no change in 2015. Around a third of respondents expect usage to increase in 2013 (32.7 percent) and 2014 (33.2 percent). (See Figure 49.)

Schools were less likely than others to report that they had plans for construction over the next three years. That said, more than half of schools respondents (52.8 percent) said they do have plans to build. This compares with 65.1 percent of non-schools respondents. While there was a decrease in the percentage of schools respondents planning new facilities, from 23.1 percent in 2013 to 18.3 percent in 2014, the percentage who plan to make additions or renovations to their existing facilities grew, with the number planning additions growing from 19.8 percent to 25.4 percent, and those planning renovations growing from 35.1 percent to 36.9 percent. (See Figure 50.)

After falling by 25.6 percent from $6,671,000 in 2011 to $4,963,000 in 2013, the average planned construction budget for schools respondents increased again this year. In 2014, schools respondents reported that they plan to spend 27.2 percent more than 2013 respondents for construction, with an average cost of $6,313,000.

Once again there was no change in the features most commonly found among schools respondents facilities. The top 10 current features include: locker rooms, bleachers and seating, indoor sports courts, concession areas, natural turf sports fields, outdoor tracks, classrooms and meeting rooms, fitness centers, outdoor sports courts and playgrounds.

In 2014, the percentage of schools respondents planning to add features at their facilities increased, after falling from 32.9 percent in 2011 to 24.8 percent in 2013. This year, 28.6 percent of schools respondents report that they have plans to add features at their facilities over the next three years. This compares with 38.8 percent of non-schools respondents.

The top most commonly planned additions include:

  1. Synthetic turf sports fields (36.1 percent of those with plans to make additions)
  2. Bleachers and seating (30.6 percent)
  3. Concession areas (20.8 percent)
  4. Locker rooms (19.4 percent)
  5. Indoor sports courts (18.1 percent)
  6. Classrooms and meeting rooms (16.7 percent)
  7. Fitness centers (13.9 percent)
  8. Natural turf sports fields (13.9 percent)
  9. Outdoor tracks (12.5 percent)
  10. Playgrounds (11.1 percent)

More schools respondents in 2014 than in 2013 were planning to add concession areas (20.8 percent vs. 15 percent); locker rooms (19.4 percent vs. 18.3 percent); indoor sports courts (18.1 percent vs. 11.7 percent); classrooms and meeting rooms (16.7 percent vs. 13.3 percent); fitness centers (13.9 percent vs. 10 percent); natural turf sports fields (13.9 percent vs. 10 percent); and playgrounds (11.1 percent vs. 6.7 percent).


The programming most commonly found among schools respondents continues to be youth sports teams. Some 72.2 percent of schools respondents in 2014 reported that youth sports teams are among their program offerings, down from 82.8 percent in 2013.

Other programs commonly found among school respondents include: educational programs (63 percent); fitness programs (55.3 percent); sports tournaments and races (45.1 percent); swimming programs (40 percent); individual sports activities (36.2 percent); sport-specific training (33.2 percent); performing arts (32.8 percent); holidays and special events (29.4 percent); and special needs programs (27.7 percent).

Programs that saw growth from 2013 to 2014 include fitness programs, which increased from 53.2 percent to 55.3 percent; and swimming programs, which grew from 35.2 percent to 40 percent.

Schools respondents were less likely than others to report that they had plans to add programs at their facilities over the next three years. While 29.8 percent of non-schools respondents had such plans, only 17.5 percent of schools did. That said, the percentage of schools with plans to add programming grew from 16.9 percent in 2013, and 12.3 percent in 2011.

The top planned programs among schools respondents include:

  1. Fitness programs (no change from 2013)
  2. Educational programs (up from No. 4)
  3. Youth sports teams (down from No. 2)
  4. Sports tournaments and races (up from No. 6)
  5. Sport-specific training (no change from 2013)
  6. Individual sports activities (up from No. 8)
  7. Swimming programs (did not appear in 2013)
  8. Holidays and other special events (did not appear in 2013)
  9. Mind-body balance programs such as yoga and tai chi (down from No. 3)
  10. Special needs programs (did not appear in 2013)

While fitness continues to hold the top spot, other programs have appeared on the top 10 list that were absent last year, including swimming programs, holidays and special events, and special needs programs. These programs replaced festivals and concerts, day camps and summer camps, and adult sports teams.

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