Budget & Finance

Study: Most States Spend Less on Schools Than Pre-Recession

By Daarel Burnette II — October 21, 2016 1 min read
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The vast majority of states are spending less on education than they did before the Great Recession, according to a study released this week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think-tank that pushes for more vibrant social programs.

“Public investment in K-12 schools--crucial for communities to thrive and the U.S. economy to offer broad opportunity--has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade,” the study said. “Worse, most of the deepest-cutting states have also cut income tax rates, weakening their main revenue source for supporting schools.”

According to the report, 35 states provided less overall state funding for education in 2014 than in 2008, before the recession hit housing prices, sending down waves of state and local budget cuts to school districts. In 27 states, according to the think tank, per pupil funding fell over the same period.

Most states have been run by Republicans in recent years. In places, those politicians have steadily cut away at income taxes to spur the economy, forcing urban and rural districts to depend more on property taxes. Property values remain flat in many cities.

In especially conservative states such as Kansas and Oklahoma, budget cuts have been so deep that parents and teachers have rebelled. Four Kansas districts sued the state over budget cuts there, resulting in a months-long showdown between that state’s supreme court and the state’s legislature and governor.

In Oklahoma where student enrollment has shot up while funding has not kept pace, more than 40 teachers filed to run for a legislative seat this season, an effort that could nudge the deeply conservative state to the left on several issues.

Other states have suffered from the fall in oil prices.

In the New Yorker, U.S. Supreme Court reporter Jeffrey Toobin predicted earlier this month that if Hillary Clinton is elected president and appoints several more liberal justices in the coming years, school finance lawyers will attempt to propose to bring legal challenges arguing for a constitutional right to an education. A ruling recognizing such a right would force states to provide more funding for poor districts.

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