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Nearly a decade after the recession, school funding in many states hasn't recovered

Oct 20, 2016

Nearly 10 years after the recession, school funding is still way down in some states. That's according to a new report released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

According to the report, 35 states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold. In 27 states, local funding per student fell over the same period.

"Let's be clear, state level K-12 cuts have large consequences for local school districts," CBPP state fiscal research director Michael Leachman said in a briefing. "These consequences are real and damaging because local schools are generally unable to make up for deep cuts in state funds."

Schools rely on states for nearly half of their funding. And when they receive less money, school districts have to scale back the educational services they provide, raise more local tax revenue to cover the gap, or both, Leachman says.

"When states cut funding, local school districts end up with less, and that means cuts. Layoffs, shorter school years, and bigger class sizes for example," he said.

Credit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

According to CBPP, a combination of factors have led to states' large K-12 cuts, including weak revenues, rising costs, recent tax cuts, and relying on spending cuts to close budget shortfalls after the recession hit.

"They could have lessened the cuts to education funding and made more progress in restoring the funding that has been lost if they'd been more willing to raise additional revenue," Leachman said.

School funding cuts adversely affect students, as well as the economy.

As of September 2016, local school districts had cut a total of 221,000 jobs since 2008. And in 39 states, the average teacher salary declined between the 2010 and 2014 school years, according to CBPP.

The deep cuts some states have made in their support for schools should concern all of us.

Teacher quality is found to be one of the most important school-based determinants of student success.  

"So recruiting, developing, and retaining high quality teachers is essential to improving student achievement. But that gets hard to do when school districts are cutting their budgets," Leachman said.

When cuts result in things like overcrowded classrooms, shuttered schools, and inability to provide students with the supplies they need to learn, students suffer. And low-income students are hit the hardest, lessening the chance that we'll ever be able to close the persistent achievement gap.

"Education is key to the aspirations of individual children and it's also key to the country's future economic growth. As such, the deep cuts some states have made in their support for schools should concern all of us," Leachman said.

You can read the full report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities here.