Ed. funding remains low, drops further in several states

Ed. funding remains low, drops further in several states

(District of Columbia) As many states work to return school funding to pre-recession levels, others have further cut education funding, with some even cutting income tax rates used to support schools, according to a new report.

As of the current school year, at least 12 states have reduced funding for K-12 schools by 7 percent or more per student over the last decade, researchers at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found.

Arizona, Mississippi, North Carolina, Michigan, Idaho and Oklahoma are among seven states that were found have gone further by enacting income tax rate cuts that reduce the pool of available state funding by tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year. In Kansas, some similar tax cuts were repealed earlier this year and school funding was increased, but not enough to satisfy the state’s Supreme Court, which recently ruled that the funding is unconstitutionally inadequate.

Authors of the report said that such cuts risk undermining schools’ capacity to improve student learning and offer support services, course options and career education necessary to help them succeed.

“Increasing financial support can help K-12 schools implement proven reforms such as hiring and retaining excellent teachers, reducing class sizes, and expanding the availability of high-quality early education,” wrote the report’s authors–Michael Leachman, Kathleen Masterson and Eric Figueroa. “So it’s problematic that some states have headed sharply in the opposite direction over the last decade.”

While increased spending doesn’t guarantee better student outcomes, research has long shown that higher school funding can lead to better supplemental services, increased access to technology and resources, smaller class sizes and hiring of more experienced teachers–all of which are tied to better academic outcomes, especially for low-income children. For children who live in poverty, attending better-funded schools makes them more likely to complete high school and have higher earnings and lower poverty rates in adulthood.

Using 2015 comprehensive spending data from the U.S. Census Bureau, researchers found that 29 states were still providing less total school funding per student than they were in 2008 after adjusting for inflation. Over the same period, local government funding per student fell in 19 states–but even in states where local funding rose, those increases often couldn’t make up for cuts in state support.

Although it varies by state, about 47 percent of K-12 spending nationally comes from state funds, so cuts at the state-level can often force local school districts to scale back educational services, according to the report. As schools’ primary local funding source, plummeting property values made it difficult for districts to raise local property taxes during the recession.

Between 2008 and 2015, state funding for education in Arizona dropped the most–36.6 percent–followed by a 22 percent decrease in Florida, and a 21.6 percent cut in Alabama. On the other end, North Dakota has increased funding 96.2 percent, Illinois school funding increased 30.8 percent, and Alaska jumped 27.6 percent.

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