States’ Funding Crisis – Take Away Educational Funding

I get it.

Forty states are seeing budget shortfalls that will total $140 billion.  It is expected that this shortfall may last as long as five years. The funding crisis in Wisconsin and New York have wiped the bloodshed occurring in the Middle East off of the network news.

There are several things that should concern us.  First, because children don’t vote and because current government officials will be out of office by the time they do, schools are especially vulnerable to budget cuts.  Second, education is in most states the largest expenditure for state government.  Third, most states use property taxes to fund schools and as the population ages, many of these people will vote against spending money for education.  Fourth, shortened school years and teacher layoffs have been limited to places such as Hawaii and Los Angeles – so teachers are expected to teach to larger classes more quickly.

Governors are now speaking out against ” unaffordable pensions, health care or salary costs.”  And the Republican governor of Wisconsin has proposed taking away the right of teachers to have collective bargaining except for salaries.

At least 25 states cut funding for K-12 education in 2009 and 34 states cut higher education spending. Because property taxes lag three years behind, school districts have yet to fully feel the 2007-2008 housing bubble collapse.  States’ collective budget shortfalls of $140 billion will make America’s 14,000 school districts vulnerable for the next five years.

We need to ask why did this happen and is there an alternative to laying off teachers and taking away their salaries, pensions and health benefits?

Many states underfunded educator pensions. (Not the educator’s fault.)  So the situation that governors find themselves in was not caused by educators but was caused by politicians.

The second alternative is raising taxes.  States could increase revenues by improving tax enforcement and collections, modernizing the corporate income tax, reforming economic development subsidies and updating income tax codes.  But in an election year (when is it not an election year?) this is a dangerous alternative.

Whatever happened to politicians and businesspeople who were so concerned about creating globally competitive American schools?  The quality of education — and student achievement — will take staggering hits under budget cuts now being considered in many states.