Four years after the national economy first started to tank, the state-level recovery remains sluggish, and K-12 education is still taking a beating.
That’s according to a report released last month by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers, which found that states are struggling to come back as unemployment remains high and funding from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act runs out.
This budget year, 18 states took the unpopular step of making midyear, unanticipated cuts to K-12 education—cuts that totalled $1.8 billion, according to the report by the two Washington-based groups. That includes cuts of at least $300 million each in three states: Indiana, Oregon, and Washington.(State fiscal years typically start on July 1.)
And next year doesn’t look any better in a lot of states.
In fiscal 2012, states are on track to spend $2.5 billion less on K-12 education than they did this budget year. Sixteen states are projecting that they will have to further cut K-12 education.
In North Carolina, Gov. Bev Perdue was, as of late last week, threatening to veto a nearly $20 billion state budget that includes deep cuts to K-12 education.
“Education is the hallmark of this state,” Gov. Perdue, a Democrat, said after the legislature passed the budget. “I am prepared to veto this budget if my review indeed shows what I fear—that North Carolina will move backwards under this budget plan.”
The report also shows states don’t have much of a cushion. Next fiscal year, a dozen states will have cash reserves of less than 1 percent of their general fund budgets.
“The greatest short-term risk to states’ recovery comes, not from statehouses, but from Washington” said the NGA’s executive director, Dan Crippen.
Specifically, the NGA said any expansion of the Medicaid health-care program for the disadvantaged threatens to cut into funding for other programs, including education. The NGA also warned that programs that carry “maintenance of effort” requirements such as special education threaten to “wall off segments of state budgets, increasing pressure to cut other state-funded services.”
A version of this article appeared in the June 15, 2011 edition of Education Week as K-12 Budgets Hurting Amid Slack Recovery