Seven States Slashing School Spending

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7. Wisconsin
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -15%
> FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $5,747 (10th most)
> Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $1,038 (2nd biggest decline)
> Adults with bachelor’s degree: 27.1% (22nd lowest)

Wisconsin was among the top 10 states for state education spending before the recession, allocating nearly $7,000 per student. By the upcoming fiscal year, however, each pupil’s education will be worth less than $6,000. Wisconsin was the only state other than Alabama to cut spending by more than $1,000 per student. To balance the budget, school districts have been forced to close schools and lay off employees.

6. South Carolina
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -16%
> FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $2,573 (3rd least)
> Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $479 (14th biggest decline)
> Adults with bachelor’s degree: 25.1% (12th lowest)

Even in 2008, before the dramatic budget cuts the state has enacted in the past few years, South Carolina spent the fourth-lowest amount on education. As fiscal year 2014, South Carolina primary and secondary students will each be educated with about $500 less than before the recession. The lack of education funding is, in part, due to the political ideals of Governor Nikki Haley. In 2011, she vetoed the state’s budget and included $56 million in cuts to education. In addition, Haley refused to accept money from the Education Jobs Fund — a federal program intended to mitigate budget constraints in schools across the country. South Carolina was the only state that did not seek money from this program.

Also Read: America’s Richest (and Poorest) States

5. Idaho
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -16%
> FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $4,906 (24th most)
> Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $930 (4th biggest decline)
> Adults with bachelor’s degree: 25.5% (14th lowest)

Idaho’s fiscal 2014 budget calls for spending nearly $1,000 less per student, compared to what they state spent before the recession. More than half of the spending cut occurred between 2011 and 2012, when spending per pupil dropped by $574. In 2012, just over a quarter of Idaho residents 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree, compared to nearly 30% in the nation as a whole. The Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Luna, would prefer Idaho be rated by its test scores, which were better than many of the states with such severe cuts in spending. In 2011, fourth and eighth graders performed close to or above the national average in mathematics and reading, based on NAEP test scores.

4. Kansas
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -17%
> FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $4,807 (25th most)
> Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $950 (3rd biggest decline)
> Adults with bachelor’s degree: 30.4% (16th highest)

Of the three primary sources of education funding — local, state and federal — Kansas schools rely the most on state revenues. Between 2008 and 2011, spending per pupil actually increased slightly. However, by 2014, state funding for K-12 schools in Kansas has dropped by 17%, or just under $1,000 per student. Like most states, the revenue Kansas collects plummeted during the recession. The biggest part of this decline occurred between 2011 and 2012, when funding fell by $839 per pupil. As state revenue has slowly recovered, however, Kansas has opted to cut income taxes instead of reinvest in education.

3. Arizona
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -17%
> FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $3,031 (8th least)
> Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $629 (11th biggest decline)
> Adults with bachelor’s degree: 27.3% (23rd lowest)

Arizona is among the states that have spent the least per student every year since 2008. Spending has decreased by 17% between the 2008 and 2014 fiscal years, one of the five biggest declines nationally. An initiative aimed at improving education proposed to raise the sales tax to ensure adequate funding for public schools. The proposal was defeated in the state legislature in 2012.

2. Alabama
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -20%
> FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $4,949 (22nd most)
> Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $1,242 (biggest decline)
> Adults with bachelor’s degree: 23.3% (7th lowest)

In 2012, 16% of Alabama residents 25 and older did not have a high school diploma, the sixth-highest rate in the country. Alabama spent the 10th most per pupil in fiscal year 2008 — about $6,000 — compared with less than $5,000 this year. Last year, legislators in Alabama approved small pay raises for teachers. Funds for education are very limited, however, due in part to the state constitution, which includes restrictions on taxation.

Also Read: States Where the Most People Go Hungry

1. Oklahoma
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): -23%
> FY ‘14 per-pupil spending: $2,737 (4th least)
> Decline in per-pupil spending (FY’08-FY’14): $810 (7th biggest decline)
> Adults with bachelor’s degree: 23.8% (9th least)

Spending per student in Oklahoma has dropped by 23% since 2008, the largest nationwide cut since the recession. Residents and education advocates are concerned the decline in state funding — on top of federal funding cuts — means larger classes and lower salaries across the board, lowering the quality of education. Already, the Oklahoma school system is struggling to meet educational standards, as suggested by low test scores. Oklahoma fourth and eighth graders performed worse on the NAEP than those in most other states in both math and reading in 2011. Oklahoma is now one of only five states spending less than $3,000 per pupil.