School districts across the United States are tightening their belts in anticipation of a meager fiscal diet that could carry into 2011.
As state and local revenue declines, officials are looking for the trims least likely to harm the quality of education. Although some districts have rainy-day funds to tap, concern is growing that students, particularly those who are struggling to learn or who are homeless, are going to feel the pinch.
Just over a third of superintendents in a recent national survey said they've already increased the size of classes because of the downturn, according to the American Association of School Administrators, an organization in Arlington, Va., that supports high standards for public education. ...
When superintendents were asked to identify what actions their districts have already implemented as a result of the economic downturn, the top responses were:
- Altering thermostats (62 percent)
- Eliminating non-essential travel (57 percent)
- Reducing staff-level hiring (48 percent)
- Reducing consumable supplies (48 percent)
- Increasing class size (36 percent)
- Deferring maintenance (36 percent)
- Reducing instructional material (35 percent)
- Freezing outside professional service contacts (30 percent)
- Laying off personnel (30 percent)
- Eliminating outside staff development consultants (30 percent)
- Eliminating field trips (35 percent)
- Cutting non-academic programs (such as afterschool and Saturday enrichment programs) (26 percent)
- Ninety-five percent said unemployment has worsened somewhat or a great deal.
- Ninety-four percent said lack of health insurance has worsened somewhat or a great deal.
- Ninety-one percent said student mobility has increased somewhat or a great deal.
- Eighty-eight percent said mortgage foreclosures have worsened somewhat or a great deal.
- Seventy percent said homelessness has worsened somewhat or a great deal.
- Sixty-seven percent of superintendents described their districts as “inadequately funded.”
- Only 30 percent described their districts as “adequately funded,” and two percent indicated their districts have surplus funding.