Three-Quarters of U.S. Public School Spending Cuts Restored

Jan 19, 2018 by

California spending on education surged 10 percent from 2013-2015.

The 2008 recession may seem like a long time ago, hitting before Barack Obama began his presidency, but public elementary, middle and high schools around the country are still feeling the pinch from it. The good news is that the most recent federal data showed a significant upsurge in state and local education spending in the 2014-15 school year – one that, if it persists, could eventually restore four earlier years of deep budget cuts.

Last week, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), an arm of the U.S. Department of Education, reported that local, state and federal governments had collectively spent 2.8 percent more on public schools during the 2014-15 school year than in the previous year. Less than 3 percent might sound measly, but it’s an unusually large boost when you’re talking about more than $575 billion spread across 50 million kindergarten to 12th-grade students. And it was the second consecutive year of spending increases, following the first post-recessionary spending uptick of 1.2 percent during the 2013-14 school year.

After adjusting for inflation by counting everything in constant 2015 dollars, this means that three quarters of the education cuts accrued between 2009 and 2013 were restored by 2015. Education spending hit a high of $11,621 on average per student in 2008-09 before budget cuts kicked in, and sank to a low of $11,019 in 2012-13. During 2014-15, each student was educated on $11,454, on average.


A majority of recessionary budget cuts to education have been restored.

A majority of recessionary budget cuts to education have been restored. (National Center for Education Statistics, National Spending for Public Schools Increases for Second Consecutive Year in School Year 2014-15)


Federal spending, which accounts for less than 10 percent of public school funding, was virtually flat. Nearly all the new money came from local and state coffers, as property tax and state income tax receipts rose.

That means the spending increases are being felt unevenly around the country, atop uneven levels of education spending to begin with, ranging from a low of less than $7,000 per student in Utah to a high of more than $20,000 in New York.

The increases, however welcome, may also be increasing educational inequality in some states. That’s because many states primarily fund schools through local property taxes. As house prices have recovered more strongly in well-to-do neighborhoods than in poorer ones, that’s aided rich school districts more. However, state budgets have grown at the same time, and some states have specifically targeted funds to needier schools. How this all shakes out, and whether spending inequality is widening or narrowing during the economic recovery, will be known later this year when the NCES releases its annual report on school district finances.

continue: Three-Quarters of U.S. Public School Spending Cuts Restored | Best States | US News

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