Public Schools & Higher Education Facing Budget Cuts Across the Nation

A June 14 Stateline article discusses the difficult budget decisions many States have made regarding cutting both K-12 and higher education.  While Maryland has so far opted to cut other areas of its budget than public school aid, other state school systems have had to absorb significant reductions.  For example, the School District of Philadelphia recently announced it was laying off 3,024 of its workers, including 1,523 of its approximately 11,000 teachers.

In many states, this was the second or third or fourth year of budget cuts to education since the recession began. While final nationwide numbers aren’t available—several states haven’t finished their Fiscal Year 2012 budgets—governors have proposed a net of $2.5 billion in cuts to K-12 education and $5 billion in cuts to higher education, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers.

What makes this year different from the previous two years is that more school districts are running out of ways to absorb the cuts without affecting what takes place in the classroom. Decisions made by legislatures have contributed to teacher layoff debates in school systems large and small, from New York City to New Albany, Indiana. In Philadelphia, the district’s budget for fiscal 2012 doesn’t just rely on layoffs. It mostly does away with school bus service too.  …
In Kansas, base aid per pupil in grades K-12 will drop by $232. In Florida, the reduction in the approved budget is $542 per student. In Texas, legislators are on the cusp of cutting state K-12 aid by $4 billion over the next two years compared with the state’s previous education funding formula. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett’s budget would drop K-12 funding by $1 billion. These cuts are occurring just as federal stimulus funding expires and as local property tax revenue is struggling to keep pace as a result of the housing market’s weakness.
Besides simple budget reductions, the article also discusses how many states are expanding the use of private school vouchers and charter schools, rolling back teacher collective bargaining rights, and exploring merit-based pay systems for teachers.  School systems in some states are opposing the changes, however, and some states could see a reversal of their recently instituted policies.
Finally, the article briefly addresses cuts to higher education, noting that it is politically easier to cut college funding than K-12 funding.
[I]t would be difficult to find a bigger education budget cut than the one that the University of Washington is about to endure. Three years ago, state support for Washington’s flagship university was $400 million. As a result of the budget lawmakers passed this year, it will now be $200 million.
As Washington’s plight suggests, higher education continued to bear the brunt of state budget cuts this year. In Nevada, for example, state funding for colleges and universities will drop by 15 percent—and that was considered a victory for higher ed because the governor had proposed a 29 percent cut earlier in the legislative session.

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