Cuts to Programs and Personnel Put Added Stress on States and School Districts Struggling to Cope With Mandates to Improve Their Education Systems
By Sean Cavanagh
Officially, the Great Recession—the economic free-fall that shredded state and local budgets as the century’s first decade neared its close—ended about 18 months ago. The picture in the nation’s schools tells a very different story.
States and school districts have seen their tax bases wither over the past two years, and the financial picture looks bleak for years to come. At least 46 states, plus the District of Columbia, struggled to close budget shortfalls heading into fiscal 2011, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a research organization in Washington.
And while political leaders traditionally are loath to cut education programs, even during tough economic times, the downturn’s severity has forced state and local officials to make deeper reductions in jobs, programs, and services than they would have contemplated only a few years ago. For example:
- Washington state officials suspended programs to reduce class size and provide professional development for teachers, saving $78.5 million and $15.6 million, respectively.
- Missouri cut its K-12 transportation funding roughly in half, a move that many school administrators expect to lead to longer bus rides and fewer routes.
- A number of rural Nevada districts have moved to four-day school weeks, in an effort to save on transportation, personnel, and other costs.