Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New School Year Brings More Cuts in State Funding for Schools

States have made steep cuts to education funding since the start of the recession and, in many states, those cuts deepened over the last year. Elementary and high schools are receiving less state funding in the 2012-13 school year than they did last year in 26 states, and in 35 states school funding now stands below 2008 levels — often far below.

States made these cuts after the deepest recession in 70 years hit beginning in late 2007, precipitating a historic collapse in state revenues. Because states relied heavily on spending reductions in response to the recession, rather than on a more balanced mix of spending cuts and revenue increases, funding for schools and other public services fell sharply. While emergency aid from the federal government reduced the severity of cuts to school funding in the years immediately following the onset of the recession, Congress allowed that aid largely to expire at the end of the 2011 fiscal year, before state revenues had recovered from the recession.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ review of budget documents for the 48 states that publish education budget data in a way that allows historic comparisons finds that:

* Twenty-six states are providing less funding per student to local school districts in the new school year than they provided a year ago. These funding cuts have been modest, but, in many states, they come on top of severe cuts made in previous years.
* Some states are beginning to restore their school funding over the past year, but those restorations are, for the most part, far from sufficient to make up for cuts in past years. For example, Florida is increasing school funding by $273 per pupil this year. But that is not nearly enough to offset the state’s $569 per-pupil cut over the previous four years.
* As a result, school funding remains well below pre-recession levels. Thirty-five states are providing less funding per student than they did five years ago.
* Seventeen states have cut per-student funding by more than 10 percent from 2008 levels.
* Three states — Arizona, Alabama, and Oklahoma — each have reduced per-pupil funding to K-12 schools by more than 20 percent. (These figures, like all the comparisons in this paper, are in inflation-adjusted dollars and focus on the primary form of state aid to local schools.)

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