Latest AASA Study Documents Unequal Sequester Pain, Poorer Districts to Suffer More

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Today, AASA released a new report entitled Federal Public Education Revenues and the Sequester. The report, fourteenth in AASA’s Economic Impact Series, examines a comprehensive dataset detailing education revenues for every school district in the nation. In partnership with ProximityOne, AASA was able to analyze total education revenues—split between federal, state and local share—to see what districts and states are disproportionately reliant on federal revenues and to explore the extremely dire situation this creates for schools as the nation braces for the looming ‘fiscal cliff’ and cuts of sequestration.

Looking at the share of federal revenues within school’s operating budgets for FY10 (the 2010-11 school year), AASA found that federal dollars represented—on average—12.3 percent of schools’ revenues. Further:

  • More than a quarter of schools (28.7%) had an operating budget where federal revenues represented more than 15% of total budget revenues. 
  • Fourteen percent of schools (13.7%) had an operating budget where federal funds represented one-fifth (20%) or more of total budget revenues. 
  • In 23 states, more than half of the LEAs had operating budgets where the federal share was above the national average (12.3%) 
  • In 15 states, more than half of the LEAs had operating budgets where the federal share was over 15%.
  • In those districts and states where federal revenues represent larger portions of overall operating budgets, the cuts of sequestration will be deeper and more damaging.

Funding realities within our nation’s public schools mean that some districts are more reliant on federal revenues. As a result, these districts have to apply the ‘across-the-board’ cut of sequestration to a larger portion of their overall operating budget than their wealthier counterparts. FY10 federal education dollars were higher than current levels, due in part to the presence of emergency education spending and subsequent spending cuts through the annual appropriations process. In an effort to adjust for these changes and to start a conversation about the impact of the sequester on school districts, the second half of the report adjusts the FY10 spending levels to estimate federal funding share within state aggregate operating budgets.

The adjusted projections for FY12 federal share drop closer to the historic level, with federal revenue representing closer to 10 percent of education budgets. The states that reported higher reliance on federal dollars in FY10 continue to have higher portions of education budgets comprised of federal revenues. This data is a clear illustration of the shortcoming of sequestration, as both a policy premise and implemented reality.

Beyond making school-level data available for every school district in the nation, this report and its dataset are a call to action: Congress must act now. Working to avoid reach consensus to avoid sequestration and the fiscal cliff represents the very essence of Congress’ job: As publicly elected officials put in place to make tough policy decisions, the work of avoiding the fiscal cliff and sequester are arguably the toughest decisions Congress will address in the forseeable future.

“Now is the time for action, now is the time for leadership,” said AASA Executive Director Daniel Domenech. “There is no room for error and thoughtless, blunt cuts. We call on Congress to set aside differences and find common ground in a responsible approach that doesn’t disproportionately impact schools by gutting our national investment in education and long-term fiscal health and competitiveness.”

“In a federal fiscal climate with a seemingly laser-focus on ‘cut, cut, cut’, it is more important than ever that our nation’s leaders recognize the important role of education in not only educating students, but in preparing a high-quality workforce for post-secondary opportunity, whether work or college,” said AASA President Benny Gooden, Superintendent of Fort Smith Schools in Arkansas. “Education budgets across the country have persisted through unprecedented cuts attributable to the recession. The additional cuts of sequestration will devastate the already fragile economic reality of our nation’s schools and will set an unacceptably low new baseline for future allocations.”

In conjunction with the release of the report, AASA released its Fiscal Cliff Toolkit, a comprehensive set of resources that utilize this report and dataset to give educators and community leaders everything they need to make urge Congress to action, including background information on sequestration and the fiscal cliff, a sample letter to the editor, a draft opinion/editorial piece, and template letters for communicating with Congress.

“We encourage AASA members and other education stakeholders to use this very powerful data to make the case at the local level—in your communities, with your local media, and with your congressional delegation—that the fiscal cliff is something to be avoided,” said Noelle Ellerson, AASA’s Assistant Director for Policy Analysis and Advocacy. “The report and related toolkit have everything needed to tell an individual district’s story in a compelling manner.”

About AASA
The American Association of School Administrators, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. The mission of AASA is to advocate for the highest quality public education for all students, and develop and support school system leaders. For more information, visit Follow AASA on twitter at

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