States Slashing Education Spending

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14. South Carolina
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY08-FY15): -10.2%
> FY15 per pupil spending: $2,840 (4th lowest)
> Decline in per pupil spending (FY08-FY15): $317 (17th largest)
> Adults with bachelor’s degree: 26.1% (11th lowest)

South Carolina spent 10.2% less on education this fiscal year than it did before the recession, the 14th largest spending cut in the nation over this time frame. Like a number of other states cutting education spending in recent years, South Carolina students scored lower in reading and math standardized tests than the vast majority of states. South Carolina was the only state to refuse money from the Education Jobs Fund in 2011, and Governor Nikki Haley has also pushed for large education spending cuts in recent years. South Carolina is set to spend $2,840 per student in fiscal 2015, among the lowest expenditures nationwide. Between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015, however, the state increased per pupil spending by 6.2%, the third highest increase in the country that year. Additionally, Haley proposed $160 million in new education spending earlier this year, mostly to be focused on students living in poverty.

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13. Virginia
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY08-FY15): -11.0% (tied-12th highest)
> FY15 per pupil spending: $5,497 (16th highest)
> Decline in per pupil spending (FY08-FY15): $535 (15th largest)
> Adults with bachelor’s degree: 36.1% (6th highest)

Although Virginia cut education spending dramatically since 2008, its spending of $5,497 per student in fiscal 2015 is one of the higher figures in the nation. Virginians also have remarkably high educational attainment rates and students achieve high test scores. More than 36% of adults had completed at least a bachelor’s degree as of last year, more than in all but five other states. And public school students had among the highest reading scores in the country — exceptional outcomes considering the cutbacks. In the recently announced state budget plan, lawmakers agreed to various cuts to fill a large budget shortfall. While funding for K-12 education will not be reduced, the state cut $90 million from higher education.

12. Georgia
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY08-FY15): -11.0% (tied-12th highest)
> FY15 per pupil spending: $4,331 (17th lowest)
> Decline in per pupil spending (FY08-FY15): $879 (8th largest)
> Adults with bachelor’s degree: 28.3% (24th highest)

State K-12 education spending in Georgia increased 2.3% between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015, one of the larger increases nationwide. Like most states, however, the recent budget boost did little to offset the education spending cuts since 2008. Per student spending declined by nearly 11%, or $535, this fiscal year compared to fiscal 2008. According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, most schools in Georgia have larger class sizes than they did in recent years. In addition, a number of districts have shortened the school year and cut teacher pay. Likely in response to these cuts, many school districts have increased property taxes in order to fund their schools.

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11. Kentucky
> Pct. chg. per pupil spending (FY08-FY15): -11.4%
> FY15 per pupil spending: $4,365 (18th lowest)
> Decline in per pupil spending (FY08-FY15): $561 (14th largest)
> Adults with bachelor’s degree: 22.6% (6th lowest)

Like a majority of states cutting education spending the most, Kentucky adults had generally poor educational attainment rates. Less than 23% of adult residents had completed at least a bachelor’s degree as of last year, versus nearly 30% of adult Americans, and among the lowest rates nationwide. As states slowly recover from the recession, education spending tends to increase. This is no different in Kentucky, where the most recent budget included a nearly $6 billion provision for K-12 education, an increase from the year before.