State education budgets still haven’t recovered sufficiently from the Great Recession in 2007, concludes a 48-state report released last week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
According to the Washington-based research group, at least 34 states are financing public schools at lower levels this school year than they did for the 2007-8 school year, on a per-student basis and adjusted for inflation. And 13 states have cut per-student spending by more than 10 percent over that time—two of them, Alabama and Oklahoma, by more than 20 percent since the financial crisis. Despite rising tax revenues across most of the country, 15 states scaled back per-student spending on K-12 from last school year to this one.
At the local level, the report finds, districts cut about 324,000 jobs during the recession and its aftermath. One reason is that while the fiscal situation overall is improving, the picture is not totally sunny. Local property-tax revenues declined 2.1 percent from March 2012 to this past March compared with the previous 12 months.
Even in states where education spending is on the rebound, the center argues that those increases often don’t make up for the frantic reductions states made during the recession’s most dire moments. New Mexico lawmakers approved a $72 per-student funding increase this year, the authors note by way of example, but during the previous five years combined, they eliminated $946 in per-student money.
“At a time when states and the nation are trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, this decline in state educational investment is cause for concern,” the report says.
A version of this article appeared in the September 18, 2013 edition of Education Week as No Bounce-Back Seen in States’ K-12 Spending