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%.  

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