Monday, August 29, 2016

Education Spending Hasn't Reached Pre-Recession Levels

As millions of children across the country head back to school this month, they will be returning to schools with fewer teachers than in past years. Those teachers will be paid less, on average. And many of them will be working in school systems that receive less funding. 
The 7-year-old economic recovery has not been kind to the American public education system. In May 2008, as the Great Recession was just beginning, U.S. school departments employed 8.4 million teachers and other workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This past May, they employed just 8.2 million — despite public-school enrollments that the Department of Education estimated have risen by more than 1 million students during the same period. Student-teacher ratios are as high as they’ve been since the late 1990s, though they’re still well below their levels of the 1980s and most of the 1990s. 
The staff cuts reflect a broader pullback in education funding in recent years. Public schools actually came through the recession relatively well, as stimulus money from the federal government helped offset cuts at the state and local levels. But federal dollars dried up before states were able to pick up the slack. In 2014, the latest year for which full data is available, state public-education funding was 6.6 percent lower than in 2008. (Local funding, which accounts for about 45 percent of school budgets, was down about 1 percent over the same span.) Federal spending rose, but not enough to overcome the state cuts: Per-student spending fell 2.4 percent after adjusting for inflation. (All spending figures in this story have been adjusted for inflation.) 
More spending, of course, doesn’t necessarily translate into better education, and budget watchdogs have long called on states to rein in spending on administrative salaries, building construction and other non-instructional items. But classrooms haven’t been spared; instructional spending has been cut at roughly the same rate as overall budgets.
According to the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in inflation adjusted terms, NJ spends 7.5% less per student than it spent in 2008, which is bad, although near the national median.

State funding for education has declined by only 1.9% per student.

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