Policy | News

Report: Sequestration Pain Varies Among Education Agencies

The School Superintendents Association (AASA) has released a new report, Unequal Pain: Federal Public Education Revenues, Federal Education Cuts and the Impact on Public Schools, that examines revenues for every district in the United States and urges Congress to end sequestration and end debate over federal funding of education.

"Continued inaction by Congress to resolve sequestration, to complete annual appropriations and to reconcile differences between House and Senate budget proposals means that the nation's public schools are funded at pre-2004 levels — at a time when they are educating an additional five million-plus students," according to the report. "Congress must address these draconian realities if it is serious about avoiding yet another threat of shutdown/fiscal cliff and directing the country down a sustainable long-term approach to fiscal stability and growth."

AASA used "a dataset generated by data used by state education agencies, collected by the Census Bureau and organized for access and analysis by ProximityOne," according to the report, to "examine the role of federal education funding within our nation’s schools."

Key findings of the organization's analysis, which is based on numbers from 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, include:

  • Federal money accounted for 11.8 percent of school revenues on average;
  • Just over 25 percent of schools rely on federal money for more than 15 percent of their total revenue;
  • More than six percent of U.S. schools get 25 percent or more of their revenue from federal spending;
  • In 21 states, more than half of all local education agencies depend on the federal government for more than 11.8 percent of their revenue; and
  • In 14 states, more than half of all local education agencies depend on the federal government for more than 15 percent of their revenue.

When schools, districts and even states rely on federal money to such varying degrees, argue the reports authors, across-the-board cuts are felt much more deeply in some schools than others.

Poorer districts, for example, are the most likely to rely more heavily on federal funding, as well as the least likely, either because of a lack of will or ability, to offset federal funding after it's withdrawn.

"Recent analysis of the same dataset by the National Education Association reinforced the wide-spread nature of this reality: one out of every four students attends public schools in districts where 15–20 percent of total revenue is from federal sources and one out of every six students attends public schools in districts where 5-15 percent of total revenue is from a single federal program (Title I)," according to the report.

"It is time for Congress to align what it says with what it does," wrote the authors in the report's conclusion. "Congress should invest in our nation's future through education by turning away from its current path, which makes it more difficult to improve student achievement, shrink achievement gaps and increase high school graduation rates. A Congress that is serious about jobs, the economy and unemployment rates would not only focus on, but would prioritize, investing in education. Educational attainment has been linked time and time again to unemployment rates and lifetime earnings, which are at the core of a healthy, robust economy."

To read the full report, visit aasa.org.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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