Budget & Finance

Most States Still Below Pre-Recession K-12 Spending Levels, Report Says

By Andrew Ujifusa — October 16, 2014 1 min read
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The majority of states are funding schools below the levels reached a half-dozen years ago, before the Great Recession caused significant budget cuts, according to a report from a Washington think tank released Oct. 16.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank, also found that among the 30 states still below the levels of fiscal 2008, 14 states have funding levels that are at least 10 percent lower than fiscal 2008, after adjusting for inflation.

As you can see from the chart to the right that accompanies the report, Oklahoma (23.6 percent), Alabama (17.8), and Arizona (17.5) are the three states with the biggest declines in funding between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2015, CBPP says. This was true for the same three states in the center’s report comparing fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2014.

On the other side of the spectrum, among the three states with the biggest per-student spending hikes from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2014 (North Dakota, Alaska, and Connecticut), two of those three, North Dakota and Alaska, remained in the top three when comparing fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2015.

However, the group also found that most states increased their per-student spending from fiscal 2014 to fiscal 2015.

“For example, Alabama is increasing school funding by $16 per pupil this year. But that is far less than is needed to offset the state’s $1,144 per-pupil cut over the previous six years,” wrote Michael Leachman and Chris Mail, the report’s authors.

What’s the impact of this situation on local districts? After noting that on average state funding accounts for 46 percent of all K-12 spending, Leachman and Mail point out that from the start of the recession until 2012, districts had cut about 330,000 jobs. Since then, districts have restored only 70,000 of those jobs.

For fiscal 2014, the center reported that 35 states were funding public schools below their fiscal 2008 budgets.

The report includes data from states’ “major education funding formulas” and does not include local property taxes or any other form of local funding.

The center’s reports on this topic haven’t always been met warmly. Arizona, for example, said the think tank’s figures for that state’s fiscal 2013 spending on K-12 were inaccurate.

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