State-level K-12 education spending has fallen dramatically in many states since 2008. In that time, 29 states cut per pupil spending, shifting the burden of financing education to local school districts and, in many instances, forcing schools to cut costs and even teachers.
Based on the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) 2014 report, "Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession," 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 14 states with at least 10% declines in state general education funding between fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2015. In Oklahoma, per pupil spending fell by nearly 24%, the largest decline nationwide. These are the states slashing school spending.
According to Michael Leachman, director of State Fiscal Research at the CBPP, "the Great Recession was very damaging for state finances, and states have varied in their policy responses." State lawmakers needed to decide whether to raise taxes during an economic downturn, or cut school funding. A majority of the states with the largest reductions in school spending have cut income tax rates in recent years. Leachman argued that "at a time when the recession is still causing damage to state finances . . . these states have just made it harder for themselves to recover."
To make matters worse, major federal education aid programs for states have also been drying up since the recession. For example, federal aid for K-12 education for schools with high proportions of low-income families decreased by 10% between 2010 and 2014.
Leachman pointed out that school spending is essentially a long-term investment, especially as jobs continue to require more educated workers. "The jobs of the 21st century are jobs that require a highly educated workforce … and if we are underfunding the education of our children, that's going to hurt our economy and all of us in the long run." Many of the states cutting funding the most are also among those with the poorest educational outcomes.This states in particular are arguably the ones that can least to make these cuts.
Students in six of the 14 states with the largest funding cuts performed worse than students across the nation on math and reading standardized tests. These states also have among the lowest educational attainment rates. While nearly 30% of the nation's adults had completed at least a bachelor's degree last year, 11 states had lower educational attainment rates.
To identify the states slashing education spending the most, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the CBPP's 2014 report, "Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession," which analyzed state level general formula funding between fiscal 2008 and the current fiscal year. State formulas typically fund the majority of state-level education expenditures, but do not include all state sources of funding. Frequently, most state fund preschool and teacher retirements outside of these formulas.
In addition to CBPP data on school spending, we reviewed 2013 educational attainment rates from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). We also looked at educational achievement using National Association of Education Progress (NAEP) test scores.
These are the states slashing education spending.
7. North Carolina
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY08-FY15):
> FY15 per pupil spending: $5,030 (21st highest)
> Decline in per pupil spending (FY08-FY15): $855 (6th largest)
> Adults with bachelor's degree: 28.4% (23rd highest)
North Carolina cut per pupil spending by 4.7% between the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, the second largest decline in the nation that year. Since fiscal 2008, North Carolina has cut education spending per pupil by 14.5%. Despite these cuts, North Carolina's general school funding per student still ranked in the top half of states nationwide. Education spending cuts have been a major talking point in the upcoming midterm election campaigns. One ad accused Thom Tillis, Republican candidate for Senator, as having cut $500 million from education as a state legislator — a claim Factcheck.org describes as "outdated and exaggerated."