Almost Three-Quarters of Superintendents Say Schools Inadequately Funded: Survey

By Denisa R. Superville — February 12, 2018 2 min read
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Seventy-three percent of superintendents say their school districts are inadequately funded, and about 62 percent say that they do not have a way to make up the shortfall if federal and state aid are cut in the upcoming school year.

Forty-percent said they expected state and local revenues to be cut.

Those are some of the highlights from a brief released Monday by the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, which surveyed superintendents and other district leaders on district finances a decade after the start of The Great Recession.

The brief was released before the Trump administration unveiled its spending plan for the 2019 fiscal year, which proposes $63.2 billion in discretionary spending for the federal education department—or a 5 percent reduction from the previous year.

School districts were forced to make brutal decisions during the Great Recession, including laying off thousands of workers, putting off construction and other school renovations, and cutting extracurricular activities.

A decade later, superintendents say they are still feeling the financial squeeze.

While almost three-quarters of superintendents said they did not think their schools were adequately funded, 2.8 percent said they had a surplus. Almost 23 percent of respondents said they expect state and local funding for schools to remain flat for the 2018-19 school year. Some 30.5 percent of the respondents say they will be able to make up some of the funding if federal and state funding are cut, according to the brief.

But if they were to get more money, district leaders said they would spend it on hiring additional staff, boosting teacher salaries, and on professional development, education technology, construction, renovation and repairs, and career and technical education.

Forty-eight percent of respondents said they would spend more money on teacher salaries. Forty-two percent said they would spend the money on professional development and 41.8 percent on career and technical education.

The new brief is based on a survey conducted in December of 531 superintendents and district leaders in 46 states. It’s part of a series of surveys AASA has conducted of school districts since the recession.

“The results from this survey detail, once again, that it is not the new cuts that are most problematic,” AASA concluded. “Rather, it is the continued inability of states and local school districts to make their budgets ‘whole,’ to return them to pre-recession levels. Now, ten years removed from the start of the recession, our nation’s K-9 graders have spent the entirety of their K-12 experience, to date, in a post-recession funding climate.

“There are many who like to downplay the impact that more money can have on educational opportunity, and AASA agrees that funding alone is not the silver bullet. We cannot, however, when armed with data like this, turn a blind eye to the stark reality that the fiscal pressure of these sustained cuts continues to deny schools and the students they serve of critical resources. Money may not be the silver bullet, but money does matter, and the findings of this report make a clear case for continued and sustained investment in our nation’s public schools. “

You can read the full brief, “Ten Years Later: How Funding Pressures Continue to Impact Our Nation’s Schools,” here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.