Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Finally!

Things are beginning to look up.

2014 looks to be a good year for education. After five years or more of funding cuts to education, many of our governors are reporting a budget surplus — and education spending is on their list! According to the fall 2013 Fiscal Survey of the States released in December by the National Association of State Budget Officers, “State budgets are expected to continue their trend of moderate improvement, making fiscal 2014 the fourth consecutive year of general fund spending growth. In contrast to the dramatic state budget declines during and immediately following the Great Recession, budgets have stabilized and significant fiscal distress continues to subside for most states.”

The survey also reports that spending increases in fiscal 2014 continue to be most heavily directed towards K-12 education and Medicaid, which received the majority of additional budget dollars. Forty-two states enacted general fund spending increases for K-12 education for a net increase of $8.8 billion. Forty-three states enacted spending increases for higher education.

Stabilization and growth — albeit slow growth — is also echoed in the outlook for school construction. This month’s issue includes the School Planning & Management 2014 School Construction Report. What you will see this year is that almost $13.4 billion was spent on school construction completed in 2013, an increase of more than $400 million from 2012. Slow growth, but growth nonetheless! If averages hold true, these buildings were started three years ago, when the economy was much more volatile and spending was tight. This bodes well for future construction numbers!

This trend is also echoed in the 2014 forecast on construction spending by the Associated General Contractors. Although not directed specifically at school construction, the forecast, based on a survey of 800 firms, states that construction spending is expected to rise between 8 to 10 percent in 2014, with the industry possibly adding between 250,000 and 350,000 jobs this year. According to Stephen Sandherr, the AGC’s CEO, contractors are more optimistic about 2014 than they have been in a long time, and many firms plan to begin hiring again.

I am an eternal optimist. And as boring as it may be to many of you, I enjoy analyzing the data and looking for connections and trends. Based on what I see here, I feel

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of School Planning & Management.

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