In spite of popular attention directed to budget cuts in K12 school districts, the reality is that aggregate school spending across the nation increases steadily from year to year and will continue to do so. Furthermore, school buying power is becoming increasingly centralized, rather than less, and administrators are making decisions for a total market that is enormous.
As the magazine of education leadership for top-level decision makers in K12 education, District Administration reaches key executives in virtually every school district in the United States, including superintendents, business officers, technology managers, curriculum directors, library/media center directors and funding administrators. Certainly no one is better qualified to comment on the current state and processes of school spending than readers of this magazine.
While District Administration publishes annual spending reports to provide insights into school markets, this year is different since we commissioned the independent research organization Martin Akel & Associates to conduct an extensive survey of our readers, and assess personal and institutional buying power for districts across the nation.
Random samples of subscribers were drawn from all sizes of school districts from enrollments of less than 600 to 10,000 or more students and each individual received a questionnaire about buying activities and expenditures over a four-year period.
Although the data collected focused on the 2006-2007 academic year, the researchers also compiled trend data for the two preceding years and projections for the two succeeding years. This article summarizes school spending results and decision-making processes across districts, and upcoming issues will present findings for technology, curriculum, security, construction and renovation. The study confirmed the enormous buying power of K12 school district executives, and also showed us some surprises. The following are selected data tables and summaries of what we found out.
PERSONAL BUYING POWER-CALLING THE SHOTS
As a publication that focuses on management issues for administrators in the K12 market, District Administration specifically targets district-level educators who are heavily involved in brand and product decisions. Across the board, DA subscribers are actively involved in planning, evaluation and the final selection of new products; are members of decision teams; are innovative in suggesting new ways to use products to achieve objectives; and are opinion leaders intimately involved in selecting or rejecting competing products.
Leadership Roles in Product Adoption
Virtually all DA readers-97 percent-have leadership responsibilities in purchasing products and services, and 83 percent of subscribers are involved in making final decisions. Nine out of ten are also opinion leaders, sought out by others and influencing them in making purchases. These data summarize leadership roles.
Roles on Decision Teams
Nine of ten-93 percent-are also involved with teams/committees that determine purchases of technologies, products and equipment for their districts, and three-quarters-72 percent-have team management responsibilities. District buying decisions are not made in isolation.
Involvement in Purchases
Subscribers were asked how involved they are in the purchasing and approval process for specific categories of products and equipment. In each case, two-thirds or more play a role in the decision process.
SCHOOL DISTRICT BUYING POWER-ENORMOUS MARKETS
The readership survey projected that the total 2006-2007 expenditures for purchasing goods and services across all districts reached by District Administration magazine is $33.3 billion, which represents an enormous market. The following data present purchase priorities, average expenditures by category and district size, and the projected spending trends for the next two years.
K12 District Spending Trends
Over the past two years 71 percent of districts increased expenditures for products and services a total of 5.9 percent, excluding construction and renovation-related spending, and 13 percent have seen decreases. Similarly, projections for two years from now show 70 percent of districts increasing spending for products and services, and 11 percent projecting decreases.
Average Expenditures in Five Product Categories
Respondents indicated their overall district's 2006-2007 expenditures for major areas of products and equipment. In each case, nine of ten districts are planning expenditures, led by spending for construction, technology and curriculum products/programs. These results were used to project the total expenditures in each category across all districts reached by District Administration magazine.
Combined District Expenditures on Products and Services
In the 2006-2007 school year, the average school district spent $4,840,000 on products and services, including construction and renovation-related spending.
District Purchase Priorities
Subscribers listed their district purchasing priorities for the 2006-2007 school year. Half or more indicated that technology systems, curriculum products, and personnel/support/administrative products are current priorities. (This survey was conducted prior to the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech, and indications are that security spending is now a higher priority than indicated). Percentages refer to respondents.
Average Expenditures by District Student Enrollment
Based on data from respondents, average expenditures were calculated across all school districts reached by District Administration. According to Market Data Retrieval, at the time of the survey there were 14,328 districts in the U.S.
BRAND "BUILDERS" AND BRAND "BURNERS"
Within districts, DA subscribers are frequently responsible for the selection or rejection of brands of products, services and equipment. Of these, 96 percent were involved in decisions that led to the purchase of specific products, and 93 percent were involved in decisions that led to specific brands being rejected. For example, in a three-month period, 60 percent of readers were involved in "burning" a specific brand.
We want to continue to be your go-to source for up-to-date and accurate information on products and services for K12 school districts, and in the articles in the continuation of this series, we will drill down in each of the purchase priority areas. We also offer a rapidly expanding online products guide on our Web site ( www.districtadministration.com/products) that has thousands of products to view. In addition, early in 2008 we will publish a special "thirteenth issue," devoted entirely to products, and will name the "Readers' Choice Top 100 Products of 2007." Let us know what works best for your district, so others can make informed decisions, by rating your favorites today.
Odvard Egil Dyrli, firstname.lastname@example.org, is editor-in-chief of DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION, and emeritus professor of education at the University of Connecticut.