Schools Anticipate Continued Budget Cuts; Study Shows Little Relief in Current or Upcoming School Years
School districts, already operating in their fourth consecutive year of budget cuts, do not anticipate returning to pre-recession funding levels for several years. In a new survey of school administrators, released today by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), school administrators report continued erosion of fiscal resources available to school districts, as the worst recession in recent history continues to impact state and local budgets.
The study, “Weathering the Storm: How the Economic Recession Continues to Impact Schools” is the twelfth in a series of studies by AASA examining the impact of the economic recession on schools. The study is based on a survey of 528 school administrators in February 2012.
Respondents project new budget cuts in the 2013-14 school year, though the projected cuts may not be as deep as in the earlier years of the recession. Respondents also identified factors that could undermine whatever fragile economic stability is starting to take hold in their communities, including the cessation of emergency federal funding and the very real threat of drastic mid-year cuts related to sequestration: School districts are bracing for the edge of the funding cliff that comes with the cessation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment and the Emergency Education Jobs Fund dollars this school year. Administrators are also bracing for deep cuts (9.1 percent reductions) in January 2013, stemming from the Budget Control Act and sequestration.
“While the survey data show glimmers of potential easing of recessionary pressures,” said Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director, in releasing the report, “the potential threats to economic stability still loom large. Our surveys document how unprecedented fiscal hardship has forced district and school administrators to answer increasingly complex and tough questions over these last years. “This survey highlights how the confluence of continued budget cuts, cessation of emergency federal dollars and the very real threat of sequestration could threaten the economic recovery starting to take hold at the state and local level.”
According to the survey:
- School districts across the nation continue to report a breadth and depth of budget cuts.
- More than three quarters (81.4 percent) of districts described their district as inadequately funded, down only slightly from 84 percent in Dec. 2010.
- Nearly three-quarters (71.2 percent) of school districts reported a cut in state/local revenues between 2010-11 and 2011-12.
- Stop-gap efforts to avoid/minimize job cuts were short-lived and reductions in force will continue to be a reality in the near future.
- Two-thirds (68.2 percent) of respondents eliminated positions in 2011-12, virtually identical to the 68 percent in 2010-11 and the 65.5 percent who anticipate doing so in 2012-13.
School administrators demonstrate a pragmatic understanding and anticipation of the potentially deep (9.1 percent) cuts that sequestration would cause and support a call to Congress to take action to avoid automatic, across-the-board cuts. “The need for sound, reasoned federal policy—both education and fiscal—is greater than ever. AASA’s members—school administrators across the country—lead the nation’s public schools and have delivered a very clear message,” said AASA’s president, Patricia Neudecker. “Congress and the Department of Education must continue to work to ensure schools have the resources they need.”
“The recession continues to have a long-term impact on learning and achievement for today’s students,” said Domenech. “I look forward to, one day, releasing a survey that talks about the end of the recession and the refunding of the nation’s public schools. Until then, we must monitor the damage and call on Congress to move quickly on the reauthorization of ESEA and on an increase to the nation’s investment in formula programs like Title I and IDEA.”
The previous AASA Economic Impact Study series is available at www.aasa.org/research.aspx.
Watch a short video of AASA Associate Executive Director Bruce Hunter and Noelle Ellerson, AASA assistant director of policy analysis and advocacy, discussing the new survey and its implications for public education in the coming years.
For continuing conversation about the survey and other key education issues, visit the AASA blog at www.aasa.org/AASAblog.aspx and follow the advocacy team on twitter (@Noellerson).