Despite a nationwide growth in student enrollment, education jobs and funding have seen a sharp decrease since 2008, according to a new report.
The report released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C., shows a loss of nearly 300,000 jobs in education while student enrollment has increased by more than 800,000 students nationally.
At least 31 states provided less state funding per student in the 2014 school year than in the 2008 school year — before the recession took hold — the report stated. In at least 15 states, the cuts exceeded 10 percent.
“At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, states should be investing more — not less — so our kids get a strong education,” said Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and co-author of the report.
Kentucky ranks 10th worst in the country, as the Commonwealth has seen a decline in per-student funding of 12.1 percent once inflation is taken into account, according to a release by the Kentucky Center of Economic Policy.
The state ranks sixth worst when it comes to cuts in its core formula funding for local schools — which in Kentucky is known as SEEK — with a decline of 10.6 percent from 2008 to 2016. The state is also one of only 12 states that continued to cut education funding this current fiscal year, the release added.
"A well-educated workforce is critical to growing the state’s economy,” said Ashley Spalding, research and policy associate for the Kentucky Center of Economic Policy, in the release. “By reducing investments in K-12 education, we are not only short-changing Kentucky’s kids but also the state’s future.”
State funding amounts for K-12 education in Kentucky have been relatively flat since the recession — and SEEK funding even increased some in the last budget — but once growth in the number of students is factored in along with inflation, these appropriations are experienced as cuts, the release stated.
The report stated, "restoring school funding should be an urgent priority" as K-12 spending cuts have had serious consequences. It cites weakening a key funding source for school districts and slowing the economy's recovery from the recession among the consequences.
According to the report, nearly 46 percent of K-12 spending nationally comes from state funds. Cuts at the state level force local school districts to scale back educational services, raise more local revenue to cover the gap, or both. The report added "it's been particularly difficult for local school districts to raise significant additional revenue through local property taxes without raising tax rates."
The job losses — 297,000 less than 2008 — have "reduced the purchasing power of workers' families, weakening overall economic consumption and thus slowing recovery," the report added.
"These trends are very concerning to the country’s future prospects," the report stated. "The health of the nation’s economy and our quality of life will depend crucially on the creativity and intellectual capacity of our people. If we neglect our schools, we diminish our future."
To see the full report, visit cbpp.org.
Jonathan Greene is the Editor of The Register; follow him on Twitter @jgreeneRR