A recent review of U.S. state budget documents found that a majority of states are still providing less cash for schools than they were prior to the recession and that local school districts can’t foot the bill. At least 30 states have decreased per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grades since the recession hit, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“Cuts at the state level mean that local school districts have to scale back the educational services they provide, raise more local tax revenue to cover the gap or both,” according to the review, which was published Thursday by Michael Leachman and Chris Mai of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The four states with the deepest cuts were Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona and Idaho. All reduced student funding by more than 15 percent because of the recession that began in late 2007 and continued through 2009.
Although most states have increased their per-student funding in the current school year compared with the last, Leachman and Mai determined that funding has not increased enough to make up for cuts in recent years. Some 46 percent of total education spending in the U.S. relies on state funds. “Restoring school funding should be an urgent priority. Steep state-level K-12 spending cuts have serious consequences,” the review states.
Leachman and Mai also found that costs of state-funded services have surged as a result of inflation, growing needs and a shift in demographics. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that there are about 725,000 more K-12 students and 3.2 million more public college and university students than there were before the recession.
Additionally, more than 37,000 unaccompanied child migrants between January and July have joined adult sponsors and family members in communities across the nation. All are entitled to a public-school education under federal law, regardless of immigration status.
According to Leachman and Mai, the state-level education cuts have a national impact, as they’ve slowed the nation’s economic recovery from the recession. “This decline in state educational investment is cause for concern,” the review notes.