Schools Reopen to Face Tough Budget Choices
Education Week: Schools Reopen to Face Tough Budget Choices.
Wake of the Recession:
As students around the country begin the 2011-12 school year, many of them will be returning to districts that, like McKeesport, have been forced to restructure their operations in the face of budget cuts.
The recent, severe recession, which began in late 2007 and officially ended in 2009, robbed states of significant revenues. While state coffers have recovered somewhat recently, many budget analysts believe it could be a few years before revenues return to prerecession levels.
At least 23 states have approved cuts to K-12 programs in fiscal 2012, which in most states began in July, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington group that analyzes the impact of government policies on low- and moderate-income Americans. All told, those cuts will have a greater impact on education, health care, and other state services than in any year since the recession began, the center concluded.
The evaporation of money from the economic stimulus—officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—will add to the state and local burden. States are expected to have spent the majority of their education stimulus money by next month. Overall, the federal stimulus aid provided about $100 billion to states and schools for education. Schools have also been helped by a separate, $10 billion pool of emergency aid approved by Congress last year, the Education Jobs Fund, which was designed to save jobs.
Districts nationwide are eliminating or reducing extracurricular activities, summer programs, and field trips in trying to avoid making cuts to core academic services, said Noelle Ellerson, the assistant director of policy analysis and advocacy at the American Association of School Administrators, in Arlington, Va. But they are also being forced to cut jobs, through layoffs and not filling open positions, and then shuffling personnel to fill holes, she said.
In a survey conducted by the AASA in May, 65 percent of superintendents said they eliminated jobs during the 2010-11 academic year, and 74 percent said they expected their districts to do the same during the coming year.
Painful new reality:
But the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, estimates that school districts have cut 229,000 jobs since state and local employment peaked in 2008. Overall, districts employ about 8 million workers nationwide, according to the bureau.
Per-pupil spending has risen steadily since the 1930s, and average class sizes have fallen over the past half-century, federal data show. But economic conditions, and federal and state leaders’ interest in chopping spending, could disrupt those trends, said Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, in Washington.
NeilS — Many of you probably took your little tyke to their first day of school this week. Unfortunately, they may be returning to a school that is under severe pressure because of the above mentioned budget constraints. Extra pressure is going to be put on teachers and administrators during this period of money scarcity. Because of this, I urge parents to follow their children’s school progress very closely and take on more responsibilities to keep them ahead of the curve. Hopefully parents recognize the pressure put on teachers and can help fill the gap in the coming years.