Public schools are hurting more in the recovery than in the recession

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The slow economic recovery is taking a toll on the nation’s public schools, reversing a multi-decade trend of increased funding and pushing student-teacher ratios to their highest levels since 2000.

U.S. schools actually weathered the recession itself relatively well. State funding, which accounts for about 45 percent of school revenues on average, fell sharply during the downturn, while local spending, which accounts for roughly another 45 percent, mostly from property taxes, was essentially flat. But federal stimulus dollars helped plug the gap, offsetting the worst of the state-level cuts. Both per-student spending and student-teacher ratios improved modestly during the recession.

Once the recession ended, however, so did the stimulus — long before state and local governments were ready to pick up the slack. Federal per-student spending fell more than 20 percent from 2010 to 2012, and it has continued to fall. State and local funding per student were essentially flat in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.

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