Wednesday, September 7, 2016

National Political Debate Ignores Ongoing Problems with School Budgets | janresseger

National Political Debate Ignores Ongoing Problems with School Budgets | janresseger:

National Political Debate Ignores Ongoing Problems with School Budgets

The 2016-2017 school year has begun in the midst of this election season, when politicians are paying scant attention to education as a public issue. But consider these facts from the Associated Press: “About 50 million students are expected to attend public elementary and secondary schools this fall. That’s up just slightly from the 2015-2016 school year…. They’ll be taught by some 3.1 million school teachers from pre-kindergarten through high school….”
The Great Recession of 2008 is still affecting school budgets. Here is the NY Times editorial board last week: “The children entering kindergarten and first-grade this school year were not yet born when the Great Recession ended in mid-2009. Incoming high school seniors were not yet in middle school. But in many states and localities, the wounds to school budgets from recession-era cutbacks are still large, leaving schools with more students and less money.”
Today’s tax and budget policies have further diminished the lagging budgets left by the Great Recession: “The difference has at least as much to do with political priorities as financial challenges. In part, persistent shortfalls in school budgets reflect the depth of the recession and the fitful recovery… (T)hey also reflect stagnation in federal help, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of school budgets. But in states with the biggest school-budget cuts, much of the pain is self-inflicted, because they have cut income taxes in recent years, creating budget shortfalls that make it impossible to adequately finance their schools. Kansas is the most notorious for such counterproductive tax cuts; other offenders include Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Oklahoma, in particular, is vying with its neighbor Kansas for the title of most fiscally reckless… Investment in education is crucial to improving long-term productivity; conversely, failure to invest in education portends the decline of living standards over time… The federal government could play a more constructive role in supporting the leaders and coaxing the laggards. It could offer aid to states contingent on improvements to their school budgets.”
Michael Leachman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities just published a short updateon that agency’s tracking of school spending over time (in inflation-adjusted terms).  He explains that in 2014 (the most recent year for which data is available): “At least 25 states provided less ‘general’ or ‘formula’ funding—the primary form of state funding for schools—per student than in 2008…. In seven states, the cuts exceeded 10 percent.” And local funding also declined in 31 states between 2008 and 2014. At the same time, “The largest federal education program, ‘Title I’ funding for high poverty schools is 4 percent below its 2008 level after adjusting for inflation.”
According to Ben Casselman’s new update from FiveThirtyEight, “The largest challenge for schools… may be longer-term: attracting teachers. Tight school budgets—and the broader pushback against public-sector payrolls in many states—have squeezed teacher salaries.”  Casselman cites a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) about the growth in the National Political Debate Ignores Ongoing Problems with School Budgets | janresseger:



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