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.