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April 8, 2010
ARLINGTON, Va. – Students and school systems across the nation are facing serious challenges as a result of the economic downturn, according to a new survey of school administrators released today by the American Association of School Administrators. Compounding an already tough budget environment, schools are facing the harsh reality that stimulus funds will soon run out and the Obama Administration’s proposal to shift additional education dollars away from long-time formula grant programs to competitive grant programs. The new study, “Cliff Hanger: How America’s Public Schools Continue to Feel the Impact of the Economic Downturn,” is the seventh in a series of studies by AASA examining the impact of the economic downturn on schools.
Click here to download the study.
Click here to watch a video interview with the study's author, Noelle Ellerson, and AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech.
This study, based on a survey of 453 school administrators conducted in March 2010, finds that school districts’ economic situation does not mimic the stability and recovery beginning to take hold nationwide. In fact, the latest survey findings document the continued erosion of fiscal resources available to school districts and demonstrate that, across the board, school budget cuts are noticeably more significant for 2010-11 than they were in 2008-09 or 2009-10.
Three themes emerge from this survey:
These results are magnified and amplified in small, rural districts.
The data from the survey of administrators indicate that stopgap efforts to avoid personnel cuts were short-lived. Personnel costs are commonly understood to represent more than 80 percent of most school districts' budgets. Personnel reductions are anticipated to increase in the 2010-11 school year.
The increasing intensity of budget cuts for the 2010-11 school year reaches beyond personnel decisions.
When asked to rate their level of agreement with a handful of statements related to education funding, competitive grants and the interplay between federal dollars and the school budget process, respondents demonstrated consistency in their opinion that competitive funds have a role—albeit limited—in federal education funding. Recognizing that competitive grants have some role in federal education funding, two thirds of respondents (66 percent) agreed/strongly agreed with the statement: “Competitive grants have a place within the funding of public education, along with continued funding and increased investment in proven formula programs such as Title I and IDEA.”
“The economic downturn persists at the state and local levels, a reality that needs to be considered as Congress and the Obama Administration move forward with both the federal budget process and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” said Dan Domenech, AASA executive director. “The results of this survey underscore the importance of understanding the true impact that federal policy and funding have at the state and local levels, especially in tight economic times. Our members were clear in articulating their concern about the cessation of ARRA dollars, the proposed level funding for IDEA and Title I, and the significant shift to competitive grants within the federal education funding process.”
“School administrators recognize that both competitive grants and formula funding have a role in helping to fund education while providing opportunity and incentive for innovation and reform in support of all students,” said AASA President Mark Bielang, superintendent in Paw Paw, Mich. “That said, AASA members are very clear on two points: competitive grants represent budget instability and are unlikely to be considered for the very long-term innovation and reform the Obama Administration is hoping to spur, and the application process for competitive grants uses a school’s administrative and financial resources to pursue a funding stream that may or may not come to fruition—resources that would otherwise be available for school personnel and programs that more directly impact student instruction and achievement. Financially strapped school districts across the nation were clear in reporting that they do not have the capacity to complete a competitive grant.”
AASA Economic Impact Studies
The previous studies in the AASA Economic Impact Study series are available at www.aasa.org/research.aspx.
The American Association of School Administrators, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders across the United States. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit www.aasa.org.