Budget & Finance

Cuts to K-12 Aid Take Many States Below 2008 Levels

By Sean Cavanagh — September 02, 2011 2 min read
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It’s no secret that many states have made serious cuts to school funding over the past couple years. A new report offers a look at the depth of those cuts—and concludes that funding for K-12 has, in many states, fallen below what was being spent before the recession took hold, four years ago.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (which has produced a lot of material gauging the size of state cuts to K-12 and other parts of government) recently examined state spending in 24 states, representing about two-thirds of the nation’s student population, looking at states where data was readily available.

Authors Phil Oliff and Michael Leachman found that 21 of the 24 states analyzed are providing less funding per student to school districts in the current fiscal year than they did during the last one.

But that’s not all. Seventeen of the 24 states are actually providing less per-student funding for the coming year than they did four years ago, in fiscal 2008, when adjusted for inflation, they found. (The recession officially began in late 2007, about halfway through states’ 2008 fiscal years, the CBPP says.)

The center’s estimates focus on state formula funding—and do not include separate state funds devoted to education. But Oliff told me he doesn’t believe the overall picture would change much, even if other sources of state aid were included. The CBPP’s research indicates that states are cutting both formula funding and other sources of state aid, too, he noted—not just cutting spending in one areas of education and making up for it in another.

The CBPP’s estimates on state spending include some emergency federal funding that has flowed to state formula funds, such as the State Fiscal Stabilization Funds through the stimulus, and money through the Education Jobs Fund. (It generally doesn’t include more targeted forms of federal stimulus aid, such as Title I funding, the authors say, though in some cases it was not possible to separate these types of federal funds from the state totals.)

The center’s argument is it make sense to focus on formula aid to schools because that’s where the majority of state money gets spent—and that because formula aid is often targeted to meet the needs of high-need children. It follows that needy students are especially likely to be hurt by cutbacks, the CBPP argues.

Here’s how the CBPP says state funding per student stacks up today, compared with four years ago:

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.