Last week the Center on Education Policy released a report describing the fiscal condition of school districts for school year 2010–11 and the anticipated condition for school year 2011–12. After surveying a nationally representative sample of over 450 school districts, survey results indicate that in order to compensate for lost funding, districts are cutting staff—including teachers—and services and are slowing the progress on education reform. The report, Strained Schools Face Bleak Future: Districts Foresee Budget Cuts, Teacher Layoffs, and a Slowing of Education Reform Efforts, can be downloaded free of charge from CEP website.
Below are seven key findings evident from the district survey data:
- A grim situation is expected to worsen in the coming school year. A large majority of all school districts, about 70%, experienced funding cuts in school year 2010-11. An even greater proportion of districts, about 84%, anticipate funding cuts in school year 2011-12.
- Districts are compensating by cutting jobs. About 85%of the districts with funding decreases in school year 2010-11 cut jobs for teachers or other staff. Approximately 61% of the districts that anticipate funding shortfalls for school year 2011-12 have plans to cut staff, but this percentage could go higher because at the time of our survey, many districts had not yet decided where to cut.
- No type of district appears to be immune from budget reductions or staff cuts. Shrinking budgets and cuts in education jobs have affected and will continue to affect all types of districts—city, suburban, town, and rural.
- Funding cuts are hampering progress on school reform. About 66% of the districts with budget shortfalls in 2010-11 responded to these cuts by either slowing progress on planned reforms or postponing or stopping reform initiatives. Slightly more than half (roughly 54%) of the districts that anticipate shortfalls in 2011-12 expect to slow progress on reforms or postpone or stop reform initiatives.
- Most districts have reached the dreaded “funding cliff” with no ARRA funds left to help ease funding shortfalls in school year 2011-12. ARRA and Education Jobs funds have helped to cushion some of the shortfalls in district budgets, but most districts have exhausted these funds. Less than one-third (about 30%) of the nation’s school districts expect to have any ARRA funds available for school year 2011-12.
- Most of the districts that received extra funds through ARRA for the federal Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs used at least some of these funds to save or create teaching or other staff jobs. Roughly 69% of districts that received ARRA Title I funds and about 83% of districts that received ARRA IDEA funds used a portion of these funds to save or create jobs. A majority of the districts that received ARRA Title I or IDEA funds also used these monies for staff professional development and for supplies and equipment.