The amount of money spent per public school student fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records more than three decades earlier, as economic woes finally caught up with educational realities.
“This is clearly the fallout from the Great Recession,” said Michael Petrilli, executive vice president of The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank.
The recession officially ran from December 2007 to June of 2009, but experts say there was some lag time before things like the housing bust began really hurting tax revenues, in turn crimping state and local budgets.
In addition, the federal government’s economic stimulus plan helped offset some of the initial tax revenue drops, so it took some time before state and local lawmakers had to tackle one of the least popular options: Cutting education funding.
“They tried to insulate education spending as best they could … but you just can’t protect it 100 percent,’ said Mike Griffith, school finance consultant for the Education Commission of the States, which provides data and analysis for state education systems.
Both liberal and conservative education policy experts agree that the drop was driven more by harsh economic realities rather than ideological preferences.
“It’s a tax issue at this point,” said Kim Rueben, a senior fellow with the Tax Policy Center and an expert on the economics of education.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor
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