The decline in state funding for public schools

by Grace

20131217.COCStateSchoolSpending1Most K-12 public schools have had to deal with decreased state funding over the last six years.

States’ new budgets are providing less per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did six years ago — often far less.  The reduced levels reflect not only the lingering effects of the 2007-09 recession but also continued austerity in many states; indeed, despite some improvements in overall state revenues, schools in around a third of states are entering the new school year with less state funding than they had last year.  At a time when states and the nation are trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, this decline in state educational investment is cause for concern.

Many schools are struggling with the costs of implementing Common Core Standards.  Some federal funding has been provided, but not always enough to offset the costs.

Local School Districts Hard Pressed to Make Up for Lost State Funding

The precipitous decline in property values since the start of the recession, coupled with the political or legal difficulties in many localities of raising property taxes, make raising significant additional revenue through the property tax very difficult for school districts.  Indeed, property tax collections were 2.1 percent lower in the 12-month period ending in March 2013 than in the previous 12 months, after adjusting for inflation.

Beyond increasing local revenues, school districts’ options for preserving investments in education services are very limited.  Some localities could divert funds from other local services to shore up school district budgets, but this would sustain education spending at the expense of other critical services like police and fire protection

Some schools are doing more with less.

Some schools have used decreased funding to institute creative ways to save money while improving learning.  After losing a literacy teacher due to budget cuts, one New York school tried separating students into instructional groups based on their proficiency levels“.  As it turns out, research supports the academic benefits of proficiency grouping.

Related:  Proficiency grouping makes more sense than differentiated instruction (Cost of College)

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3 Comments to “The decline in state funding for public schools”

  1. Ability grouping is nice, and may make sense educationally (though it becomes very difficulty when kids are all over the place in ability). But it is only a cost cutter on the margins. In NY and NJ, people are going to have to bite the bullet and consolidate districts if they ever want to get a grip on costs

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  2. One estimate I saw indicated that ability grouping could cut 10-20% off budget costs. One of the biggest factors in rising education costs has been decreasing class sizes. Grouping students by ability allows class sizes to increase with either no impact or improved achievement levels. That’s significant IMO.

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  3. I think that is overly optimistic. The reality is that most kids can’t be neatly ability-grouped. Johnny is top of his grade level in reading but struggles in math. Susie is great at math but can’t sit still long enough to focus. Ahmed has an IEP and needs writing support. Kumiko is very bright but speaks little English. Because of this, parents will continue to demand small classes, and there will continue to be an army of support specialists. Overly large class sizes is one of the biggest reasons parents cite for leaving the public system. And I get it. As a teacher myself, albeit of older students, I am very glad my department caps classes at 25, because there is a big difference between a class of 25 and a class of 30. You can’t get a sense of each individual student once you get up to around 30, and you don’t have time to give them the extensive feedback that is needed.

    I suspect that parents, faced with a choice of higher taxes, large class sizes, or consolidation, will go for consolidation, especially if done on a gradual basis.

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