A brand new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute created in 1981, shows that K-12 funding per student in Alabama (adjusted for inflation) has dropped 14.2 percent since 2008. Only Oklahoma, at 26.9 percent, is worse than Alabama.
The report points out that even though Alabama has recently upped per pupil spending by $168, this is far from enough to offset the state’s $1,082 per pupil cuts over the previous eight years.
It is also noteworthy to point out that Massachusetts, Governor Bentley’s guide star for education these days, has actually increased education spending 9.7 percent since 2008.
Of course, there are always the misinformed who claim there is little relationship between money and results.
But I present the University of Alabama athletic program as exhibit one to shoot down this argument. From 2006-11, this school spent $105 million on athletics. This was more than any other school in the Southeastern Conference, except the University of Florida with $107.1 million. The state of Alabama has 4.8 million people; Florida has 20.2 million.
The University of Alabama spent more than competitors the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University COMBINED.
The results of this money is the most successful college football program in the United States. And anyone ignoring the reality between money and results is foolish.
The Center’s report sums up the situation like this:
“Restoring school funding should be an urgent priority. Steep state-level K-12 spending cuts have serious consequences.
- Weakening a key funding source for school districts. Some 47 percent of K-12 spending nationally comes from state funds (the share varies by state). Cuts at the state level force local school districts to scale back educational services, raise more local revenue to cover the gap, or both. And because property values fell sharply after the recession hit, it’s been particularly difficult for local school districts to raise significant additional revenue through local property taxes without raising tax rates, a politically challenging task even in good times. (See Figure 1.)
- Slowing the economy’s recovery from the recession. School districts began cutting teachers and other employees in mid-2008 when the first round of budget cuts took effect, federal employment data show. By mid-2012, local school districts had cut 351,000 jobs. Since then they’ve restored some of the jobs but still are down 221,000 jobs compared with 2008. These job losses reduced the purchasing power of workers’ families, weakening overall economic consumption and thus slowing the recovery.
- Impeding reforms widely acknowledged to boost student achievement. Many states and school districts have identified as a priority reforms to prepare children better for the future, such as improving teacher quality, reducing class sizes, and increasing student learning time. Deep funding cuts hamper their ability to implement many of these reforms. For example, while the number of public K-12 teachers and other school workers has fallen by 221,000 since 2008, the number of students has risen by 1,120,000. At a time when producing workers with high-level technical and analytical skills is increasingly important to a country’s prosperity, large cuts in funding for basic education could cause lasting harm”.