BEYOND THE NUMBERS
At least 23 states will provide less “general” or “formula” funding — the main form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — in the current school year (2017) than when the Great Recession took hold in 2008, our newly updated survey of state budget documents finds.
Eight states have cut general funding per student by about 10 percent or more over this period. At the same time, five of those eight — Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin — enacted income tax rate cuts costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year rather than restore education funding.
Most states raised general funding per student this year, but 19 states imposed new cuts, even as the national economy continues to improve. Some of these states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Carolina, already were among the deepest-cutting states since the recession hit.
Our survey, with the most up-to-date data available on state and local funding for schools, also shows that, after adjusting for inflation:
- Thirty-five states provided less overall state funding per student in the 2014 school year (the most recent year available) than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold.
- In 27 states, local government funding per student fell over the same period, adding to the damage from state funding cuts. In states where local funding rose, those increases rarely made up for cuts in state support.
As academic research confirms, money matters for educational outcomes. For instance, poor children who attend better-funded schools are likelier to complete high school and have higher earnings and lower poverty rates in adulthood.
Our country’s future depends heavily on the quality of its schools, yet rather than raising K-12 funding to support proven reforms such as hiring and retaining excellent teachers, reducing class sizes, and expanding access to high-quality early education, many states have headed in the opposite direction. By cutting K-12 funding, these states are weakening schools’ capacity to develop the skills and creativity of the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs. Restoring school funding should be an urgent priority.
The interactive map below shows the percent change in per-student state general funding in the past year and since 2008, for each state with the necessary data.