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Reality Check for Obama, Duncan, and other Ed Reformers

By Michele McNeil — December 18, 2008 1 min read

Not to throw cold water on the education secretary naming party, but did anyone else see that yesterday—while Obama was talking up the benefits of a longer school day and teacher quality during the Arne Duncan announcement—the governor of Alabama was taking steps to cut K-12 education funding by 9 percent? NINE PERCENT!

That cut ranks as the biggest Alabama’s seen in public school funding in half a century, and surely it’s the most severe the country has seen this year. Alabama is only the most recent example of a state so deep in deficit that its governor has been forced to cut public school spending amid the national recession. It wasn’t the first state, and won’t be the last either. You can’t achieve 9 percent in savings by shutting off the lights at night, or cutting back on pens and pencils. These kinds of cuts are significant and will undoubtedly mean teacher layoffs and deep cuts in other education programs. (UPDATE: You can follow the financial crisis, and how it’s affecting schools, at EdWeek’s special collections page on the topic.)

Certainly, tough times and budget cuts can spur leaders to come up with innovative solutions to boost student achievement in spite of it all. Maybe some legislators will warm up to the idea of private-school vouchers. (Okay, that might be a stretch.) Nevertheless, the Florida Legislature’s research arm declared this week that the state’s corporate tax-credit scholarship program saved the state nearly $40 million last school year.

The bottom line is state education funding is going to be hit, and hit hard during this downturn, and that’s surely going to alter the education reform dynamic at local, state, and federal levels.

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