Funding | Research

Report: Most States Spending Less on K-12 Education

Per-pupil spending in 34 states is below pre-recession levels for the 2013-2014 school year. According to a report released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, despite some improvements in state revenues, 15 of those states have cut budgets beyond the levels they were at just last year.

The report, "Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession," found that of the states that are still funding education below pre-recession levels, 13 of them are off by 10 percent or more. Oklahoma schools have been hardest hit percentage-wise, down 22.8 percent in this fiscal year (FY 2014) versus FY 2008 (down $1,038 per student in inflation-adjusted dollars). Alabama schools were down 20.1 percent ($1,242 per student). They were followed by Arizona (down 17.2 percent, or $629 per student), Kansas (16.5 percent, $950), Idaho (15.9 percent, $930), South Carolina (15.7 percent, $479), and Wisconsin (15.3 percent, $1,038). Other states that are experiencing double-digit cuts include Georgia, California, Mississippi, Virginia, New Mexico, and Texas.

On the positive side, 14 states have increased per-pupil spending in FY 2014 compared with FY 2008. The clear winner is North Dakota, whose per-pupil spending is up 27.2 percent this year, or $1,116 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Iowa schools have also seen a double-digit improvement, up 11.2 percent, or $552 per pupil.

Among the causes cited by the report were:

  • Increased costs to states of delivering services (owing to "inflation, demographic changes, and rising needs");
  • State tax revenue shortfalls; and
  • Decreased contributions from the federal government.

According to the report, the consequences of the cuts could be dire: "States' large cuts in education spending have serious consequences for the economy, in both the short and long term. Local school districts typically have little ability to make up for lost state funding on their own. As a result, deep state funding cuts lead to job losses, slowing the economy's recovery from the recession. Such cuts also counteract and sometimes undermine important state education reform initiatives at a time when producing workers with high-level technical and analytical skills is increasingly important to a country's prosperity."

The complete report, including charts comparing state spending, is freely available on CBPP's site.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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