Public Funding

Report: K–12 Investments Still Down in Many States

Public investment in K–12 schools has declined significantly in a number of states during the past decade, according to research done by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

In addition, most of the deepest cutting states have also cut income tax rates, weakening their main revenue source for supporting schools.

At least 23 states will provide less general or formula funding — the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools  — in the current school year (2017) than when the Great Recession took hold in 2008, according to the CBPP.

Eight states have cut general funding per student by about 10 percent or more over this period. Five of those eight — Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Wisconsin — enacted income tax rate cuts costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year rather than restore education funding.

Most states raised general funding per student this year, but 19 states imposed new cuts, even as the national economy continues to improve. Some of these states, including Oklahoma, Kansas and North Carolina, already were among the deepest cutting states since the recession hit.

The CBPP survey also found that:

  • Thirty-five states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent available) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession really hit.
  • In 27 states, local government funding per student fell over the same period, adding to the damage from state funding cuts. In states where local funding rose, those increases rarely made up for cuts in state support.

The Washington, D.C.-based CBPP stated in its report that steep state-level K–12 spending cuts have had serious consequences, including weakening a key funding source for school districts; slowing the economy’s recovery from the recession; and impeding reforms widely acknowledged to boost student achievement.

The report also found that state funding fell sharply between 2008 and 2014, and local funding did not make up the difference.

Plus, current year data show that general formula funding is still down in many states.

The CBPP suggested reforms, but said these can be endangered by funding cuts. The reforms include:

  • Improving teacher quality;
  • Trimming class size;
  • Expanding learning time; and
  • Providing high-quality early education.

For the CBPP’s full report, visit the organization’s website.

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].