Per-Pupil Spending by Most States Below Pre-Recession Levels

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By Emily Wilkins

More than half of all states are spending less per K-12 student than they were pre-recession, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The study found per-pupil state spending in 29 states was higher in 2008 than in 2015, the most recent year of data available through the Census Bureau.

The center also reviewed state budgets and found at least 12 states are continuing to cut funding to students, including Arizona, where the 2015 level of funding per student had already dropped 36 percent since 2008.

Because state revenue makes up 47 percent of funding to K-12 schools, local governments are unable to fully compensate for state cuts, said Michael Leachman, one of the authors of the report who serves as the director of state fiscal research at the CBPP.

“As states cut funding, local school districts ended up with less,” he said. “That meant cuts, layoffs, bigger classes sizes, shorter school years.”

However, the report notes an overall state funding uptick in 2015 over 2014, when 35 states’ per-pupil funding had yet to rebound to 2008 levels, according to a report last year from the center.

The new report covers 48 states, excluding Hawaii and Indiana as their data didn’t offer an accurate comparison.

Leachman said the cuts could be pegged to factors including: a refusal on the part of state lawmakers to raise taxes; losses in state revenue through lower oil prices and decreased sales tax; and rising costs, as 1.4 million more students are attending K-12 schools in 2017 than in 2008.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at ewilkins@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bgov.com

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