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Protests by teachers and others in Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and West Virginia last year helped most schools end school “formula” funding, the primary source of income, in huge increases in four states. deeply in the last ten years.
Despite improvements over the past year, formula funding in these states remains below 2008 levels. Additionally, three of these four states have increased income streams that have become increasingly difficult to maintain school funds, and their growth may be short-lived unless they increase incomes sustainably. Kentucky, another deeply concerned state that Teachers protested in 2017, last year provided straight-line state formula funding for schools.
State Funding For Public Schools
Despite improvements over the past year, formula funding in these states remains below 2008 levels. Several other well-established states, which did not see major teacher protests last year, lag behind previous formula funding levels. For example, formula money per student in Texas is now 20 percent below the full 2008 inflation-adjusted rate.
K 12 School Funding Up In Most 2022 Teacher Protest States, But Still Well Below Decade Ago
Total student financial aid compared to ten years ago. As of 2016, the last year for which Total Per Year data is available, 26 states provided more general state and local funding per student than before the fall, after adjusting for inflation. While state and local revenues have generally continued to improve since 2016, the number of states that finally recovered from the Great Recession continues to rise.
Additionally, some states have made new investments that can improve student achievement; This is an approach that will strengthen the economies of these states over time relative to their neighbors. States with funding concerns may lag behind their peers unless they earn additional income and invest wisely in their schools.
K-12 schools are dependent on government assistance in each state. In the United States, an average of 47 percent of school revenues come from government funds. Local governments provide another 45 percent; The remaining 8 percent comes from the federal government. (See Figure 1.)
States distribute most of their money through a formula that allocates most of their money to school districts for general education activities, including teacher salaries, textbooks, lighting, warming, and supplies such as pencils and paper. Each state uses its own formula. Most states are targeting at least some funding to areas with a high need for students (for example, students from high-income families) and areas with little ability to raise money from property taxes and other local revenues. These features make the state formula fund an especially important source of funding for higher poverty schools that disproportionately educate children of color.
How Are Public Schools Funded?
In addition to this “general” or “formula” funding, states provide revenue for other more specific purposes, such as bus services, contributions to school employee retirement plans, and teacher training. States differ in what funds they include in their general fund formula and what they provide outside of the formula.
Because schools rely heavily on subsidies, cuts in government funding (particularly in formula funds) often force local school districts to cut education services, provide more income to fill the gap, or both.
Twelve states privately reduced formula funding by more than 8 percent between 2008 and 2017. In this article, we update our analysis of formula funding in these 12 states. As schools receive additional funding from the states and local governments provide significant school funding, we provide the most up-to-date data on total state and local revenue for schools using US Census data during the 2016 school year.
In the spring of 2018, teachers and other school staff walked out of their classrooms to protest low pay and other lack of funding. Many of the states where these protests took place are among those that have cut school formula funding significantly since the last recession in the 2007-08 school year. Last year, teachers went on strike or held other protests in five of the 12 states that cut formula funding, especially after the recent recession, in Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
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In four of the five states—all but Kentucky—lawmakers increased school formula funding last year, at least in part in response to opposition. Funding was important, especially in Oklahoma, where lawmakers increased formula funding per student by 19 percent after adjusting for inflation. Arizona, North Carolina, and West Virginia have significantly increased aid after inflation, with increases ranging from 3 percent to 9 percent per student. But in Kentucky, where teacher protests have focused mainly on counter-laws that would cut teacher pensions, student formula funding has held steady relative to inflation.
In particular, most of the seven other states that have discontinued school formula funding in the past decade have increased their school funding in the past year (typically, these funding increases have been smaller than most states that have resisted). Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, and Utah all increased their per-student formula funding to schools by 1 to 3 percent last year, after adjusting for inflation. Michigan, another deeply connected state, provided the same per-student funding as last year, adjusted for inflation. Two states, Mississippi and Texas, have further reduced their funding, with Texas making particularly deep cuts (in part because Texas state formula funding automatically decreases when local funding grows). (See Figure 2.)
Most states that oppose teachers have cut their formula funding so much over the past decade that the massive funding cuts last year weren’t enough to return funds to pre-recession levels. For example, in Oklahoma, formula funding per student, including inflation, remains 15 percent below 2008 levels. Formula funding per student in Arizona, North Carolina and West Virginia is still below pre-recession levels. (See Figure 3.)
In several other states that did not see teacher protests in the past year, formula funding is below post-post levels. After adjusting for inflation, formula funding per student in Texas is 20 percent lower than in 2008. Reductions were also profound in several other states, including Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, and Utah.
A Lost Decade In Higher Education Funding
While teacher salary increases and other reforms were allowed in teacher protest states last year, the benefits could be reversed in the coming years if states do not take additional steps to increase school funding. Three out of four teachers who opposed last year’s formula funding increases exploited potentially unsustainable income streams, leaving them vulnerable to backtracking in the years to come. More specifically:
West Virginia, the fourth state with the deepest cuts, gave teachers and other state employees a 5 percent salary increase without generating new income, which led to funding cuts in other areas.
While declining demand for the state’s natural resources could change the fate of the state, this trend seems relatively sustainable, especially as incomes have recently exceeded expectations in West Virginia.
So far in 2019, leading policy makers in these states have not proposed new revenue for school investments. The governor of Oklahoma has proposed additional pay increases for teachers, but no new revenue (and no revenue increase to reduce classroom sizes or support overall classroom operations).
Public Schools And The Property Tax: A Comparison Of Education Funding Models In Three U.s. States
Increases in local government funding, unformulated state funding, or federal funding can at least reduce the impact of state formula funding on school districts. But school districts cannot rely on these other resources to fully offset government formula funding. Local governments often cannot raise enough revenue to cover rising costs, especially when property values plummet after a recession. Non-formula government funds given specifically for certain purposes – although helpful in some ways – cannot be added to fund deductions for basic school costs. And federal funding, a general source of school funding, isn’t particularly susceptible to state and local funding cuts. As a result, when states drastically cut formula funding, counties are unable to invest in the high-quality kindergarten research studies suggest, scale down classrooms, or improve teacher quality.
This seems to be the case in most states where teachers protested last year. Indeed, the protests themselves are the result of low teacher salaries, huge class sizes, and a lack of schools to help other students succeed – all of which are the result of insufficient funding.
The effects of government funding cuts are evident in average teacher salary trends. Some 42 states lowered their average teacher wages relative to inflation between 2010 and 2017, the latest data available. (Comparable data are not available for 2008.) Oklahoma reduced the average teacher salary adjusted for inflation by 15 percent from 2010-17. (But it’s not among the states that have cut the formula money the most since the last recession began). West Virginia and Arizona made the cut
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