New Report Shows State Budget Cuts are Devastating Public Schools

WASHINGTON, DC —New austerity budgets, passed by state legislatures, are having a huge negative effect on direct services to children, youth, and families, according to a new report by Campaign for America’s Future.

The report, “Starving America’s Public Schools: How Budget Cuts and Policy Mandates are Hurting our Nation’s Students,” compiles data from local news reports across the country. The report focuses on five key states’ budget cuts to K-12 public education: Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The five states have reduced or eliminated crucial services, such as pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten, technical education and foreign language courses, art, music and physical education. Several of the states also have increased class sizes. In each state, the report documents dwindling public school funds being transferred to private entities, such as private schools and voucher programs.

“We know what our students need to learn and succeed – including early childhood education, smaller class sizes and a well-rounded curriculum,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Americans must demand that our elected leaders use our tax dollars to help build a solid future for all our children and our nation by providing adequate funding for our public schools and helping all our students get the education they deserve.”

“In community after community, I came across clear signs that our schools are in dire straits,” said report author and education blogger Jeff Bryant. “At a time when the world is changing so rapidly and globalization is opening so many new possibilities for the next generation, why are our public schools being forced to shrink the learning opportunities available to our children?”

Campaign for America’s Future co-Director Robert L. Borosage called on Washington to wake up to the damage being done across the country. “The debate in Washington too often ignores the carnage suffered by schools and children from budget cuts across the country. Instead of ensuring that schools are protected from the budget squeeze caused by the economic collapse, Washington is more focused on the old debate over testing and standards. Meanwhile, states are cutting back early childhood education, increasing class sizes and cutting back everything from advanced placement to music and art education. These cuts not only add to the downturn, they endanger the education that everyone agrees our children deserve.”

Examples of how our children are paying the price:

• Arizona ranks sixth among states in the amount of public school funds being funneled to private schools. The state redirects $61 million per year through individual, corporate, and other kinds of tax credit programs. Florida ranks first, redirecting $229 million per year through voucher and corporate tax credit programs.

• Florida has cut more than $1 billion from education in its new budget for 2011–12, an almost 8 percent drop that translates to a loss of $542 per student.

• Overriding the governor’s veto, the North Carolina General Assembly approved a 2011 budget that cut $800 million in education funding. The state ranked 47th in spending per pupil in the country in 2010 and likely will slip to 49th in 2011.

• In Pennsylvania: In Chester Upland, 40 percent of the teachers were eliminated, with class sizes rising from 21 to 30 in elementary schools and to 35 in high schools. And in York, art, music and physical education classes were eliminated in elementary schools.

Starving America’s Public Schools: How Budget Cuts and Policy Mandates are Hurting our Nation’s Students was sponsored by the National Education Association.