New data from the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities shows that 23 states have made cuts to K-12 education for fiscal year 2012, which started on July 1 for most states.
These cuts will slow the nation’s economic recovery and undermine efforts to create jobs over the next year.
This level of budget-cutting is unnecessary and results, in part, from state and federal actions and failures to act. To be sure, with tax collections in most states still well below pre-recession levels and lagging far behind the growing cost of maintaining services, additional cuts at some level were inevitable for 2012. But the cutbacks in services that many states are now imposing are larger than necessary. Many states enacting deep cuts have failed to utilize other important tools in their budget-balancing toolkit, such as tapping reserves or raising new revenue to replace some of the revenue lost to the recession. Some states have even added to the cutbacks by further depleting revenue through tax reductions — an ineffective strategy for improving economic growth that likely will do more harm than good.
This is crazy, right? But take a look at some of what this means for low-income and minority students (who often bear the brunt of these cuts despite not having many resources to begin with) in a few states:
- In Florida, more than 15,000 low-income children will be dropped from the school readiness program as a result of the cuts. Also – cuts to the state’s universal pre-k program will result in teachers having larger class sizes.
- In Illinois, the cuts eliminate funding for AP courses in high-poverty schools.
- Wisconsin cut state aid designed to equalize funding across school districts by 8 percent and cut funding for services for at-risk children, school nursing, and alternative education.
- Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri will fail to meet each state’s own law requiring equitable funding to every school in the state. In Louisiana’s case, this’ll be the third year in a row that the state will fail to meet this requirement to ensure adequate funding for low-income and special needs students. In Mississippi’s case, this is the fourth year in a row that this is the case resulting in nearly 2100 people losing jobs (mostly teachers and teachers assistants).
Florida, Missouri and Wisconsin also passed tax cuts. In other words, not only did they cut education, but they made it hard to raise revenue for anything, guaranteeing that they will likely have to make more cuts in the future.
The United States ranks 14th out of 34 developed countries for reading, 17th for science, and 25th for mathematics. Only 70 percent of students graduate on time in this country. Only 50 percent of Black and Latino students graduate on time. Poor and minority students are likely to get a substandard education largely because of where they live.
And yet, in almost flagrant disregard for the reality of the state of our education, states think now is the time to cut funding to education. Can’t think of a bigger, more obvious mistake.