Tuesday, June 10, 2014

States That Already Spent Less on Education Have Made Bigger School Cuts | FiveThirtyEight

States That Already Spent Less on Education Have Made Bigger School Cuts | FiveThirtyEight:

Public schools have struggled during the long, slow economic recovery. On Tuesday, I noted that urban districts — especially big-city districts — have been hit particularly hard. But there’s also tremendous variation by state.
Idaho, for example, spent 12 percent less per student in the 2011-2012 school year than in 2008-2009, after adjusting for inflation. More than 80 percent of Idaho’s school districts experienced cuts. North Carolina’s cuts were slightly smaller (11 percent on average) but even more widespread: Nearly all its districts reduced spending.
Compare those states to North Dakota, where per-student spending is up 8 percent since 2009, or New Hampshire, where it’s up 6 percent.
What’s going on? Given the disproportionate impact on urban districts, you might think the hardest-hit states would be those where the highest proportion of students live in cities. But it turns out there’s no clear relationship there: City-heavy California has experienced big school funding cuts, but even more urban New York has seen per-student spending increase.
There’s a similar story when it comes to federal spending: Federal budget cuts have accounted for the bulk of schools’ recent funding woes. But states that rely most heavily on federal funding have cut spending only modestly more than more self-sufficient states.
What turns out to make a difference is actual spending levels. States that spend less per-student, such as Idaho, Utah and many Southern states, have made significantly bigger cuts (on a percentage basis) than states, such as New York and Connecticut, that spend more. The relationship isn’t perfect: Arkansas, a low-spending state, has increased funding, while big-spending Hawaii has made big cuts. But as the chart above shows, there’s a clear relationship.
One important note: These figures are adjusted for inflation, but not for the cost of living in each state. The Census Bureau providesStates That Already Spent Less on Education Have Made Bigger School Cuts | FiveThirtyEight:

The slow economic recovery is taking a toll on the nation’s public schools, reversing a multi-decade trend of increased funding and pushing student-teacher ratios to their highest levels since 2000.
U.S. schools actually weathered the recession itself relatively well. State funding, which accounts for about 45 percent of school revenues on average, fell sharply during the downturn, while local spending, which accounts for roughly another 45 percent, mostly from property taxes, was essentially flat. But federal stimulus dollars helped plug the gap, offsetting the worst of the state-level cuts. Both per-student spending and student-teacher ratios improved modestly during the recession.
Once the recession ended, however, so did the stimulus — long before state and local governments were ready to pick up the slack. Federal per-student spending fell more than 20 percent from 2010 to 2012, and it has continued to fall. State and local funding per student were essentially flat in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.
The result: Total school funding fell in 2012 for the first time since 1977, the Census Bureau reported last month. Adjusting for inflation and growth in student enrollment, spending fell every year from 2010 to 2012, even as costs for health care, pension plans and special education programs continued to rise faster than inflation.1 Urban districts have been particularly hard-hit by the cuts in federal education spending: Nearly 90 percent of big-city school districts spent less per student in 2012 than when the recession ended in 2009.2
The cuts are increasingly hitting classrooms directly. In the recession and the early stages of the recovery, superintendents were largely able to protect instructional expenses such as teacher salaries by cutting from other areas, such as administration and maintenance. But that has become more difficult over time. In the 2011-12 school year, classroom spending fell faster than overall spending.
“You end up with few alternatives but to have it hit the classroom in one way or another,” said McKell Withers, superintendent of schools in Salt Lake City, where inflation-adjusted per-student spending fell 10 percent between 2009 and 2012. “Everything that we could do to try to buffer the impact is now dried up and gone.”
The recent cuts represent a sharp reversal after decades of rising U.S. 

Public Schools Are Hurting More in the Recovery Than in the Recession