Economic Downturn Represents ‘A Very Real Threat’

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ARLINGTON, Va. — The recent economic downturn threatens the progress and stability of our nation’s educational system, concluded a national survey of school administrators released this week.

 

According to the report published by the American Association of School Administrators, 67 percent of superintendents from 836 responding school districts said their school programs were inadequately funded. The survey, which was issued in October in response to state budget shortfalls and the federal bailout of the financial industry, found 74 percent of schools had already implemented or planned on implementing a reduction in staff-level hiring.

Daniel Domenech, executive director of the association, said these reductions tend to put those low-income communities at the greatest peril because they are most reliant on federal and state support and least able to meet needs by raising taxes. According to the survey, 78 percent of superintendents from schools that said they were inadequately funded reported a concurrent increase in demand for free/reduced meal programs.

With a recession apparently on the horizon, Domenech said he sees current economic troubles continuing through the 2010-2011 school year and likely through 2011-2012. The report suggested school-level cuts may get worse next year, as this year’s budgets were drawn up before October’s economic downturn. In the meantime, the association will push Congress for an increase in federal funding, where possible, and a reduction in the costly and insufficiently-funded No Child Left Behind and federal special needs education mandates, Domenech added.

While many schools are already turning down thermostats, eliminating unnecessary travel and deferring maintenance, some of the superintendents said they may be forced to freeze outside professional service contracts, lay off personnel and eliminate staff development consultants.

Read the entire survey online. Look for more on how recent economic news is impacting education and pupil transportation in the upcoming 2009 STN Buyer’s Guide.