- Based on 2015 Census data, 29 states are providing less per-pupil funding than before the recession, and in 19 states, local funding has also dropped over that same time period, according to a report released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
- By cutting teaching positions and other jobs, districts have slowed the economic recovery, the authors suggest. By the middle of 2012, 351,000 jobs were cut — and while many have been restored, there are still 135,000 fewer positions than in 2008, the report says, citing the CBPP analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
- Looking at more recent spending patterns in 12 states, CBPP found that eight of them cut their general formula funding for schools this year by at least 10%, with the report attributing the decline in ed spending to a variety of factors that include falling oil prices, slow tax growth and tax cuts in some states. Costs for services have also increased, and there are about 1.4 million students in K-12 public schools than in 2008.
The report also notes that state funding formulas that target additional funding to districts with low property wealth or high percentages of low-income students are not able to equalize the funding. And the authors note that funding shortfalls are hurting key school improvement efforts, such as recruiting and retaining teachers through salary increases, cutting class sizes and expanding time for learning. “If we neglect our schools, we diminish our future,” Michael Leachman, CBPP’s director of state fiscal research, said in a telephone press briefing. He added that while recovery funds from the federal government helped to make up for the loss of state funding following the recession, that funding source ended in 2012, and that states that cut taxes before the recession might now be regretting those decisions.
Current funding levels leave schools looking for grants, using crowdfunding websites, seeking community partners, cutting instructional programs, especially for art, music and other non-core subject areas, and even dropping to a four-day school week. The Every Student Succeeds Act, however, creates opportunities for “conversations that could lead to a better place.” Leachman added. “It does give states the opportunity to look very carefully at how they are funding their schools.”
Conservative policy analysts, however, argue that while U.S. still spends more per student than most developed countries, teachers still find themselves paying for classroom supplies out of their own pockets. "The money is being 'eaten up' somewhere between the taxpayer and the student," says Inez Feltscher Stepman, director of the Education and Workforce Development Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council. She adds that not enough funds are going to teachers or instruction, "but rather to increase the number of administrators and to pay staff pensions." Just last week, however, leaders of the Shelby County Schools in Tennessee presented board members with a proposal to eliminate retirement benefits for new employees beginning next year.