In 2015, 29 states were still providing less total K-12 school funding per student than they were in 2008, The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says.
The Center says in a report, A Punishing Decade for School Funding, that the cuts were even more damaging in 19 states because local government funding per student fell over the same period.
"States cut K-12 funding — and a range of other areas, including higher education, health care, and human services — as a result of the 2007-09 recession, which sharply reduced state revenue," the report says. "Emergency fiscal aid from the federal government prevented even deeper cuts, but ran out before the economy recovered, and states chose to address their budget shortfalls disproportionately through spending cuts rather than a more balanced mix of service cuts and revenue increases. Some states have worsened their revenue shortfalls by cutting taxes."
The Center's analysis of U.S. Census data through 2015, the latest for which statistics are available in most states, found that Arizona was the state with most severe drop in state K-12 funding—36.6 percent less funding per student in fiscal 2008 compared with 2015 (inflation adjusted). Of the states that have increased funding from 2008 to 2015, North Dakota showed the largest percentage increase: 96.2 percent.
School districts typically get more funding from state allocations than any other source. The average U.S. district gets 47 percent of its funding from state allocations, 45 percent from local sources, and 8 percent from the federal government.
"Because schools rely so heavily on state aid, cuts to state funding...generally force local school districts to scale back educational services, raise more revenue to cover the gap, or both," the report says.
The Center says school funding has improved since 2015, but some states that cut deeply after the recession are still providing much less support.
"As of the 2017-18 school year, at least 12 states have cut 'general' or 'formula' funding — the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — by 7 percent or more per student over the last decade," the report says.
The lack of adequate education support has forced school systems to scale back services, slowed economic recovery, and impeded school reforms that can improve learning, the Center asserts.
"For example, while the number of public K-12 teachers and other school workers has fallen by 135,000 since 2008, the number of students has risen by 1,419,000," the report says. "At a time when producing workers with high-level technical and analytical skills is increasingly important to a country’s prosperity, large cuts in funding for basic education could cause lasting harm."