States have made deep cuts to their education budgets in the years since the Great Recession, and as their budgets remained crunched by lower levels of tax revenues, more than half are spending less on education this school year than they did last year, a new analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found. Overall, 26 states will spend less per pupil in fiscal year 2013 than they spent in 2012, while 35 are still spending less than they did before the recession.
As the following chart from CBPP shows, Alaska, Alabama, and Washington are leading the way in education cuts, reducing funding by at least $200 per student:
Education spending isn’t back to its pre-recession levels in nine additional states, including Florida, which is boosting per pupil funding by $273 this year. Over the previous four years, however, Florida cut per pupil spending by $569. Seventeen states, according to CBPP, have cut their education budgets by at least 10 percent over the last five years.
These cuts actually helped make the economic downturn worse, as they forced states and localities to layoff teachers and other education-sector workers. Since 2009, more than 200,000 teaching jobs have vanished.
But the cuts also have damaging effects on America’s education system as a whole. Cutting education budgets forces school districts to scale back services and programs. The cuts, as CBPP notes, can undermine education reform efforts, and since they are often disproportionately targeted at low-income school districts, education cuts can also exacerbate the education gap that already exists between low- and high-income students.