Funding for K-12 Education Set to Improve

By: - February 7, 2012 12:00 am

After cutting K-12 education spending substantially during the recession, states generally expect to increase funding this year, according to a report released today by the non-partisan Center on Education Policy. 

Already, a number of governors, including Republicans Rick Scott of Florida and Gary Herbert of Utah, have made increasing funding to education a top priority. Scott called for an increase of $1 billion for schools, while Herbert called for $118 million, part of which would go to a modest raise for teachers. 

In total, 20 of the 37 states surveyed by CEP said they planned to increase funding for education in 2012, up from 14 last year. Among the eight states planning to cut, none said they expected to see reductions of more than 5 percent. 

Funding for K-12 education increased by $1.2 billion overall last year, according to the National Association of Budget Officers. But adjusting for increased enrollment and inflation, most states actually cut per-pupil funding last year, according to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 

Phil Oliff, a policy analyst in CBPP’s State Fiscal Project, says that even if states come through with more education dollars, they still have a long way to go to undo cuts made during and after the recession. He recently  wrote that Scott’s proposed $1 billion increase will only increase per-pupil funding in Florida by $59 — a far cry from the $1,381 per-pupil cut to funding in Florida between 2008 and 2012. 

“While it’s a welcome change from the deep cuts of recent years,” he said in an interview with Stateline , “it still leaves state funding for education well below pre-recession levels.” 

It may take even longer for funding at the local level to recover. That is because because local funding is often tied to property values, which are still declining in many parts of the country.  

But while state and local budgets were hampered by the recession, the CEP report finds that federal stimulus and a separate federal aid program known as “EduJobs” helped states continue to make planned changes to their educational systems and prevented even deeper cuts. As Diane Stark Rentner, director of national programs at CEP, puts it, “It saved teaching jobs, no doubt.”

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