Education Funding

Once ‘Sacred,’ School Aid Falls Prey to Budget Cuts, NCSL Report Finds

By Mary Ann Zehr — May 07, 2003 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As states plan for the new fiscal year that begins July 1 for 46 of them, many states remain poised to cut K-12 education funding in order to come up with workable budgets, a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures says.

The report, “State Budget Update: April 2003,” can be purchased for $25, plus the cost of shipping and handling, from the National Conference of State Legislatures by calling (303) 364-1621.

Nearly all states have struggled with deficits in their general funds for three years in a row, and many have tried to fill the gaps by cutting back on programs or raising taxes. But some legislatures have continued to underestimate the extent to which their revenues are declining, according to the Denver-based NCSL.

In “State Budget Update: April 2003,” released last month, the group notes that with two months remaining before the end of most states’ 2003 fiscal year, states face a total of $21.5 billion in budget shortfalls—the difference between anticipated spending and projected revenues. The report doesn’t provide a total amount for all states’ general-fund budgets, nor an average budget gap nationwide.

Such shortfalls are greatly complicating efforts to plan budgets for 2004. The report says that at least 21 states are considering proposals that would adversely affect precollegiate spending.

“These fiscal problems are so severe that even K-12 education, a program that has been held sacred and protected, is being affected,” said Corina Eckl, a co-author of the NCSL report.

Alaska, California, and Oregon are the states with the bleakest outlooks, according to the report’s indicators. At the end of April, Alaska had a budget shortfall of nearly $500 million, or 25 percent of its general-fund budget.

California had a gap of $8.2 billion, or 11 percent of its budget, and Oregon was short $1.1 billion, or 19 percent of its budget.

For other states, the shortfalls made up smaller proportions of the general-fund budgets, which in general account for about three-fourths of all state spending, according to Ms. Eckl.

Limited Options

States are looking at a variety of ways to trim spending on education in the upcoming fiscal year.

Alaska, for instance, may reduce funding for student transportation and early kindergarten, among other areas. Oregon is anticipating a salary freeze and is looking at changing its pension system. Kansas is proposing cutting the amount of state aid per pupil by $27—from $3,890 to $3,863 per student.

Ms. Eckl said that proposals are increasingly affecting core aspects of schooling.

“The early cuts that K-12 education experienced were along the lines of programming for at-risk youth, language programs, and after-school programs,” she said. “It seems now that we are shifting to cutting per-pupil funding and halting increases in teachers’ salaries.”

As a sign of the times, she noted that while her organization typically publishes a report on state budgets twice a year, it has begun producing the reports every two months because members are so interested in what’s happening in other states, given the dreary economic climate.

“We’re exhausted,” Ms. Eckl said. “We need the economy to turn around.”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Classroom Strategies for Building Equity and Student Confidence
Shape equity, confidence, and success for your middle school students. Join the discussion and Q&A for proven strategies.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Professional Development Webinar
Disrupting PD Day in Schools with Continuous Professional Learning Experiences
Hear how this NC School District achieved district-wide change by shifting from traditional PD days to year-long professional learning cycles
Content provided by BetterLesson
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding 4 Ways States Are Trying to Fix How They Fund Schools
Advocates in many places are pushing for reforms that precisely target more robust aid to schools and students in need.
6 min read
one woman and two men with a large calculator and next to large stacks of bills and coins.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Education Funding Pennsylvania School Funding Is Unconstitutional, Judge Says. Here's What Could Happen Next
An appeal could be on the way, but advocates are already gearing up to make the case for funding reform.
6 min read
Stock image of a gavel on top of a pile of money.
iStock/Getty Images
Education Funding 6 Lawsuits That Could Shake Up How States Pay for Schools
Far removed from annual budgets, these lawsuits hold the potential to force states to direct more funds to their schools.
6 min read
Large white hand holding a weighing scale with a bag of money on one side and books with floating letters on the other side showing a balance of knowledge and money
Education Funding States Are Rolling in Surplus Cash, But It's Not All Good News for Schools
Some states are ramping up education spending, while others are leaving districts disappointed.
7 min read
Illustration of a man holding oversized money.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty