Monday, February 1, 2016

School spending per student drops for a third year in a row - The Hechinger Report

School spending per student drops for a third year in a row - The Hechinger Report:
School spending per student drops for a third year in a row
Towns and cities spent more on schools during 2012-13, but federal poverty and special education funds dropped

Turn the education spending clock back to 2007.

Per-pupil spending in the nation’s public schools fell for the third straight year in 2012-13*, according to the most recent federal financial data, which was released on January 27, 2016. In that school year, U.S. public schools spent only $10,763 per elementary, middle and high school student, on average, across the country. That’s a tiny $62 per-pupil decrease from the previous school year (2011-12), after adjusting for inflation. But it comes on the heels of two straight years of spending declines, putting us back roughly to how much we spent on public education in 2007, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Cumulatively, we’re spending $858 less per student than we did at the peak, back in 2008-2009, when we spent $11,621, adjusted to today’s dollars.

“You’ve been educating more students with more need as the dollars have been dwindling,” said Hilary Goldmann, executive director of National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, an advocacy organization that lobbies the government for education funds.

Per-pupil school spending 2012-13

(Navigate to any state and click to see student spending data. Interactive map created by Jill Barshay of The Hechinger Report. Source data: Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2012-13, NCES)
The reasons for the 2012-13 dip in education spending are different than those in previous years.  Following the 2008 recession, state and local budgets had dried up. Many regions were forced to make education cuts under balanced-budget rules. Those state and local cuts were only partly offset by a surge in federal funds, aimed at reviving the economy. By 2011-12, President Obama’s stimulus funds had been largely spent down, causing education spending to decline yet again.
In the newly released financial figures for 2012-13, there is evidence of economic recovery. Local funding to schools — from cities, towns, counties and districts — actually went up almost 1 percent, or $2.3 billion, thanks to an increase in housing prices, which led to higher property tax collections. State funds to schools remained stable from the previous year. But surprisingly, federal funds went down 10 percent. That’s $6 billion fewer federal dollars going to public schools.
It’s not immediately obvious why federal funds would tumble like that, since the stimulus funds had already been spent. Meanwhile, the deep “sequestration” budget cuts of 2013, which forced automatic reductions on most federal programs, didn’t kick in until spring, and mostly affected students the following school year.
I talked with Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, and he explained that Congress actually began cutting funds to education before the sequester budget battle. Programs that target high-poverty schools, such as Title I, and special education were both hit. Federal agencies have formulas for distributing this money, based on the number of poor and special needs children, but these formulas are based on a percentage of the money that Congress appropriates. When Congress appropriates less, schools get less — even as the School spending per student drops for a third year in a row - The Hechinger Report: