School districts around the country are laying off teachers, cutting instructional programs, and eliminating student activities as they absorb the lingering effects of "The Great Recession," according to a new report.
And while the recession appears to have officially ended in 2009, it could take a long time—up to a decade—for district budgets to recover to their pre-recession levels, according to the report, published by the Center for Public Education, which is a part of the National Schools Boards Association.
The reason for that slow return to prosperity? School district budgets are likely to suffer from lagging home prices, poor state budgets, and reduced federal stimulus funding, which is expected to run out by 2011, according to the report, which was released today. States are also likely to have to pay higher costs in state employee retirement programs, which are underfunded, among other areas.
"Some districts have managed to trim personnel costs while minimizing teacher layoffs by instituting furlough days, freezing salaries and reducing health and retirement costs," the report states. "But the financial handwriting is on the wall: In upcoming years, more cuts will be necessary."
Another problem area for districts: They are complying with the "underfunded mandates" of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, as well as with their own states' academic requirements, the authors say.
The report draws from a number of sources, including a March 2010 survey from the American Association of School Administrators. That survey found that 78 percent of districts said they planned to cut budgets during the 2010-2011 school year, up from 64 percent in 2009-2010.
That information was collected before Congress approved the Education Jobs Fund, which provided $10 billion in funding to save school positions. In a conference call with reporters, Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst at the center said while that money was certain to help districts, the long-term funding outlook remains bleak.
School districts draw about half of their funding, on average, from the state money, the report says, and states are hurting financially. In 2010, every state except Montana and North Dakota faced budget shortfalls, totaling about $200 billion. The result? For fiscal year 2011, roughly two-thirds of states cut K-12 money to help balance budgets, in areas such as general funds to school districts, funding for classroom supplies, prekindergarten and after school programs, and other areas, the report says.