New Study Finds School Budgets for 2009-10 Take a Hit in Response to Economic Downturn

March 25, 2009

Amy Vogt


National Survey Reveals Significant School Budget Cuts Despite Stimulus Funding for Education

ARLINGTON, Va. - Schools across the nation are planning significant cuts in their 2009-10 school year budgets, in spite of some $100 billion in education funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to a new study from the American Association of School Administrators. The study, “Looking Back, Looking Forward: How the Economic Downturn Continues to Impact School Districts,” is based on a survey of school administrators conducted in February and March 2009.

“The fact that schools are planning significant budget cuts for the 2009-10 school year underscores just how bad the economic situation is nationwide,” said Randy Collins, AASA president and superintendent in Waterford, Conn. “Although the federal stimulus commits an unprecedented amount of funding to public schools, it does not fill all the holes districts are facing in their budgets. Furthermore, the education funds lack sufficient flexibility to allow for maximum use by local school districts.”

According to the new study, the impact of the economic downturn on schools is widespread and has worsened over the past six months. Seventy-five percent of administrators who responded to the survey described their districts as “inadequately funded.” That percentage has increased eight points since October 2008, when 67 percent of administrators described their districts as “inadequately funded” in the “AASA Study of the Impact of the Economic Downturn.” In both studies, the downturn reached across districts, regardless of geographic area, district type (rural, suburban or urban) or district size.

Response to the Economic Downturn
The study asked what actions districts have taken in response to the economic downturn for the 2009-10 school year compared to the 2008-09 school year. While budgets for 2008‐09 were passed before the current economic crisis, 2009-10 budgets are being developed in the midst of significant state budget shortfalls. As a result, districts are planning deeper cuts for 2009-10, including cuts in areas that directly impact student achievement, including increasing class size, reducing academic offerings and eliminating teaching positions.

  • The percentage of districts increasing class size more than tripled from 13 percent in 2008-09 to 44 percent in 2009-10.
  • The percentage of districts laying off personnel quadrupled from 11 percent in 2008-09 to 44 percent in 2009-10.
  • The percentage of districts cutting academic programs (such as academic intervention and Saturday classes) more than tripled from 7 percent in 2008-09 to 22 percent in 2009-10.
  • The percentage of districts cutting extracurricular activities almost tripled from 10 percent in 2008-09 to 28 percent in 2009-10.
  • The percentage of districts deferring maintenance increased from 21 percent in 2008-09 to 33 percent in 2009-10.

Stimulus Funds
This survey was launched after the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a stimulus measure that provides some $100 billion in funding to help cash-strapped school districts avoid program cuts, prevent teacher layoffs, invest in school modernization and increase funding for Title I, special education and other important programs for children nationwide. AASA asked administrators to indicate and rank eligible uses for the stimulus funding they would be receiving. Exclusive of staff retention, which is currently under review because of issues concerning “supplement” and “supplant,” the top five “high priority” uses identified were:

  • classroom technology (57 percent)
  • school modernization/repair (54 percent)
  • safety/security measures (40 percent)
  • connectivity (39 percent)
  • professional development (37 percent)

“Although the stimulus funds will help protect American children from devastating program and staffing cuts, students and schools are still vulnerable,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of AASA. “The stimulus funds could help districts retain and acquire essential personnel, services and equipment, but many of these expenditures may simply represent the return of resources and capacities the schools had cut in the early stages of the recession.

“Congress and the U.S. Department of Education must work to ensure schools have the resources they need in these challenging times to provide critical services, increase student achievement, and fuel economic recovery and growth,” Domenech added.

About the Survey
A total of 859 school administrators from 48 different states completed the “Looking Back, Looking Forward” survey over a three-week period in February and March 2009. AASA distributed the survey to school administrators via an e-mail invitation and a link on the AASA homepage. While the sample of respondents was not random or scientific, the respondents represented all regions of the country and districts and communities of all types and sizes.

Previous Studies
This study is the fourth in a series of studies conducted by AASA on the impact of the economic downturn on schools. The previous studies, available at, are:

  • AASA Impact of the Economic Downturn on School Jobs Snapshot Survey (Jan. 16, 2009)
  • AASA Opportunity for Federal Education Funding Survey (Dec. 15, 2008)
  • AASA Study of the Impact of the Economic Downturn on Schools (Nov. 12, 2008)


About AASA
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