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ERIC Number: ED553366
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Nov
Pages: 26
Abstractor: As Provided
Impact of the Economic Downturn on Schools. Report of Findings
McCord, Robert S.; Ellerson, Noelle M.; Jordan, K. Forbis; Jordan, Teresa; Lemons, Richard; Mattocks, T. C.; Melver, Toby; Orr, Margaret
American Association of School Administrators
In Fall 2008, in response to the recent economic downturn, as evidenced in state budget shortfalls, federal buy-outs and interventions, and a series of additional events characterizing a slowing, stagnant economy, AASA examined the impact on school districts across the nation. While there are regional differences, the findings of AASA's Economic Impact Survey, presented here, demonstrate that superintendents in every part of the country are subject to the realities of the economic downturn. While this benchmark data cannot predict a trend, it is difficult to deny that superintendents, in increasing numbers, are confronted by the looming financial crisis that threatens the progress schools have obtained and the stability they have enjoyed in the past. When superintendents were asked to identify what actions their districts have considered as a result of the economic downturn: (1) Seventy-four percent have either already implemented or plan to implement a reduction in staff-level hiring; (2) Seventy-nine percent have either already implemented or plan to implement a policy of altering thermostats for less heating and cooling in buildings; and (3) Eighty percent have either already implemented or plan to implement the elimination of non-essential travel. The condition of the schools in a community is an excellent barometer for measuring the condition of the community. The economic downturn reported by school administrators is paralleled by more subtle impacts on the community. When schools curtail their spending through measures such as reducing payroll, conserving energy use, reducing fuel consumption, deferring maintenance, and delaying purchases, the local community feels the effect. For many small communities, schools are a major employer as well as a reliable source of revenue, and cuts to school spending mean cuts to community revenue. When superintendents were asked about the economic-related problems of the families of students in their district: (1) Eighty-eight percent say mortgage foreclosures have worsened somewhat or a great deal; (2) Ninety-five percent say unemployment has worsened somewhat or a great deal; (3) and Ninety-one percent say student mobility has increased somewhat or a great deal. Given the inelastic nature of school district budgets and the difficult financial times, superintendents have a tough role to play in cutting costs to meet shrinking budgets. Belt tightening measures are already underway and survey responses suggest that the specter of further cuts is inevitable in areas directly influencing instruction and student learning. The survey responses indicate that, in the face of painful choices, superintendents are proactively engaging the community in the decision-making process. The three most common methods for reaching expenditure-reducing decisions were: (1) Discussions with the superintendent's cabinet (81 percent of responders); (2) Discussions at open school board meetings (70 percent of responders); and (3) Discussions in school board committees (56 percent of responders). Access to an adequate education is a fundamental right afforded to all children. This survey documents the very real threat the recent economic downturn poses to fulfilling this educational obligation to the next generation of Americans. While coping with the burden of constrained budgets initially falls on school superintendents, board members, principals, teachers and parents, the realities associated with an economic downturn have far-reaching consequences. Overall, responses to the Economic Impact Survey reflected a general sense of pragmatism among superintendents and an acceptance of the need to tighten budgets and implement moderate changes. Given that the budget for the 2008-09 school year was passed before the economic downturn, many responders indicated that the adjustments made to the current budget are very moderate when compared to the cuts superintendents expect to see in their upcoming school budget discussions. Appended are (1) Survey Questions; and (2) Survey Response Data.
American Association of School Administrators. 801 North Quincy Street Suite 700, Arlington, VA 22203-1730. Tel: 703-528-0700; Fax: 703-841-1543; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Evaluative; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: AASA, The School Superintendent's Association