February 12, 2018(1)


AASA and Rural School and Community Trust File Joint Response to USED Draft Report on Rural Education

Last December, USED released Section 5005 Report on Rural Education, its preliminary report on how the agency supports and serves rural education, as required by the Every Student Succeeds Act. As a draft report, it is open to public comment and feedback. AASA joined forces with the Rural School and Community Trust in our joint set of comments, which you can read here

In a nutshell, our groups are concerned that the report missed the mark and fails to address the questions and tasks outlined in statute, and managed this incomplete response more than 6 months behind schedule. As a point of reference, AASA is following three reports required by ESSA (rural, Title I formula, and homework gap), all of which were due June of 2017, and to date, only the rural report has been completed. The report details events that were hosted or facilitated but failed to report or demonstrate how rural and community feedback and experience is meaningfully and purposefully reflected in education policy.

When we consider that 70% of our nation's schools enroll less than 2,500 students, and a full 50% enroll less than 1,000, the role of rural education and its unique opportunities and obstacles should be a front-row driver of education policy. Our nation's rural schools enroll more students than the nation's 75 largest school systems combined, yet the rural voice and perspective is often and after thought in federal education policy discussions. 

The formal comments delve into deeper detail and response about what USED had reported and what it means for schools.

"It was our sincere hope, with an additional six months, the department would have been successful in releasing a draft report for public comment that is detailed, accountable, and outcomes-based, and outlined an action item framework that USED was tasked by Congress to propose, including a pathway for implementation.  The preliminary report, as drafted, falls short of this goal and remains an incomplete work.  We urge USED to review thoroughly all public comments, incorporate them the final report, and announce a date when the final report will be submitted to Congress."

February 12, 2018


Ten Years Later: How Funding Pressures Continue to Impact Our Nation’s Schools

During the depths of the nation’s greatest recession, AASA conducted a series of 16 national surveys detailing the cumulative impact of the recession and funding cuts on our nation’s public schools and the students they serve . As the recession drew to a close, the rate and frequency of these surveys slowed. Now, in 2018, a decade removed from the depths of the recession, many state and local education agencies have yet to return to pre-recession funding levels and funding pressures continue to be a reality in their day-to-day existence. To that end, AASA conducted a national survey of superintendents in December 2017 to gauge the extent to which schools continue to experience fiscal hardship as well as their capacity and approach to returning to pre-recession funding levels.

The survey, Ten Years Later: How Funding Pressures Continue to Impact Our Nation’s Schools, is part of AASA's Economic Impact Survey Series, which helped detail the impact of the recession on the nation's schools. This latest iteration comes as states and schools mark 10 years since the start of the recession, and report varied levels of recovery. 

AASA Executive Director Daniel A. Domenech issued the following statement about the report: "We are ten years past the depths of the nation’s greatest economic recession. However, our public schools have yet to be operating at pre-recession levels. Some are there, but many are not, and they continue to aim for merely returning to pre-recession funding levels. Ten years means that in many schools across the country, our nation’s K-9 students have spent the entirety of their K12 experience to date in a post-recession funding climate. As we prepare to respond to the President’s proposed budget for FY19, we are pleased to share our latest economic impact report to highlight the reality of providing education to our nation’s 50 million public school students and look forward to working with Congress to adopt federal funding levels that support adequate and equitable investment in our schools and the students they serve.”

As we prepare to review and respond to the President's proposed FY19 budget, his announced infrastructure plan, the ongoing negotiations around FY18 appropriations and how all three impact our nation's schools, some key findings from the survey jump out:  

  • Nearly three-quarters (72.5%) of respondents described their school district as inadequately funded, compared to 24.5% reporting adequately funded and 2.8% reporting surplus. When compared to earlier surveys, this is down from 83% in the fall of 2015 and 81% in March of 2012, but still above the 67% reported in October 2008. 
  • When asked to identify the various program and service cuts their district had considered and/or implemented in the response to budget pressures, the top five items implemented as cuts in the last five years were reducing staff level (non-instructional) hiring (65.5%); deferring maintenance (65.4%); eliminating non-essential travel (65.2%); joining bulk purchasing groups/co-ops (63.8%); and reducing consumable supplies (62%). 
  • IDEA Shortfall: When asked what percentage of their local budget is being used to cover federal mandates related to special education, just 10% of respondents indicated that it was less than 10% of total spending. 48.2% of respondents indicated they used 10-20% of total spending to cover the federal IDEA shortfall, compared to 25.6% reporting 20-30%; and 8.5% reporting they used 30-40%.