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Adding Up States’ K-12 Funding Cuts

We reported last week that 30 states are spending less per pupil on K-12 education this year than in the 2007-08 school year, before the recession started to take its toll on state budgets.  We’ve tallied those funding cuts and found that, in aggregate, those 30 states are sending $25.5 billion less to school districts under their basic education funding formulas than they did in 2008.

School districts must make up for that lost funding by increasing property taxes or other revenues, or — more commonly — by cutting their own budgets (reducing staff, buying fewer textbooks, deferring repairs and renovations, and so on).  Either way, that’s a hit on the local economy that families and businesses just about everywhere are feeling.

How much is $25.5 billion?  Enough to have a very big impact.  To give a sense of the magnitude, it’s enough to pay the salaries of about 460,000 teachers, at the average U.S. teacher salary rate of $55,000.

Schools haven’t covered the spending cut solely by laying off teachers, of course, but they have laid off many thousands of people and taken other actions that reduce economic activity.  Already since 2008, schools have cut 278,000 education jobs, even as student enrollment has grown. This year’s widespread funding cuts mean that the job losses and broader economic damage are likely to continue.