CBPP survey finds devastating cuts to K-12 education nationwide

K-12 education programs across the nation will feel historic" funding cuts as states look to balance their budgets during especially harsh economic times, according to a survey from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released earlier this week.

The report looks at the mixed bag of budget balancing strategies states are employing nationwide, some of which may not necessarily improve conditions. Actions such as cutting taxes or refusing to use rainy day reserves, the study authors conclude, will result in further damaging already struggling education programs.

The report reviews the recently enacted budgets of 47 states for fiscal year 2012 and found that the "cumulative effect of four consecutive years of lagging revenues has led to budget-cutting of historic proportion," which researchers said will affect greatly the neediest communities nationwide for the foreseeable future.

Since education and health care are the core public programs receiving the most funding, they are the programs that will be most affected by the budget cuts, the report says.

Among the states reviewed, 38 will make deep funding cuts to core public programs and at least 23 have cut deeply into K-12 education. Indeed, one state - Mississippi - will for the fourth year in a row fail to meet its statutory spending requirements.

About 25 states have made equally devastating cuts to higher education as well.

"In many cases," the report notes, "these cuts undermine school finance systems that are intended to reduce the disparities between high-wealth and low-wealth school districts, so the largest impacts may be felt in communities that are least able to compensate for the loss of funds from their own resources."

Additionally, the cuts to education will take an enormous toll on teacher employment, class sizes and overall quality of education which the report notes will have repercussions for years to come.

"Many of the state budget cuts described here [in the report] will weaken that workforce in the future by diminishing the quality of elementary and high schools, making college less affordable, and reducing residents' access to health care," the researchers said. "In the long term, the savings from today's cuts may cost states much more in diminished economic growth."

38 of the 47 states reviewed plan major spending cuts to services and programs, some spending less than in pre-recession years.

Six states still have healthy rainy-day reserves but only one will tap those reserves to ward off deeper cuts; the others will use other means to balance their budgets

Five states will raise revenues with major new tax measures as well as implementing spending cuts

But, 12 states will enact major tax cuts forcing deeper spending cuts, the report notes. For example, "California, Maryland, and New York also allowed major tax measures to expire or phase out, losing significant revenue causing further cuts in spending," the report said.

Also, Arizona, Florida and Michigan, among others, will enact tax breaks for corporations which will cost these states hundreds of millions in revenues.

Other states are giving breaks to top-wage earners. And, Ohio will eliminate its estate tax which last year earned the state $286 million.

And, overall, spending cuts to education will further reduce per pupil spending between $300 to $500 per pupil in most states surveyed, with a high in Washington of about $1,100 per pupil.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy organization working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals.

To read more visit: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3550.

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