the sad state of K-12 funding in the US

The Sad State of U.S. K-12 School Funding, and How Video Conferencing Can Help

Peter Bean
May 12, 2017

Simply put, K-12 education funding in the United States is far from where it needs to be.

Teachers are striking over the lack of resources, schools are infested with mold, rodents and insects, and some city school boards are more than $1 billion in debt (yes, that’s billion with a ‘b’).

Not only are budgets being slashed, but the money that does trickle into state and municipal programs isn’t being distributed equally, leading to all kinds of issues.

Who loses most, though?

The students.

So what can be done?

With resources falling and school boards getting their hands tied, you’re going to need to start getting more creative with the resources that you do have.

One way to do this is by incorporating inexpensive video conferencing into your classrooms.

Funding is Lower Than Pre-Recession Levels

The Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009 wreaked havoc on the United States’ $8 billion housing market.

As a result, consumers held back spending and business investment disappeared, with more than eight million jobs lost in the process.

In the education sector alone, more than 300,000 jobs were lost. State and local education funding dropped considerably as well, given their heavy reliance on income and property taxes.

The AASA study polled 875 school administrators across 49 U.S. states and the District of Columbia a

And here we are, more than six years after the recession ended, not faring any better.

In a study by the School Superintendents Association (AASA) published in December 2015, it was revealed that 69 percent of respondents said that they’ve experienced a cut in funding between the 2007-08 and 2015-16 school years.

Which means that two thirds of the nation’s schools are operating at pre-recession funding levels.

Yikes.

That 2015 AASA report produced some other alarming findings, including:

  • 83 percent of respondents described their district’s current economic situation as ‘inadequately funded’
  • 42 percent laid off personnel prior to the 2015-2016 school year
  • Nearly half (44 percent) of respondents anticipate a cut in state and local revenues between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years
  • 47% replied that the cuts to education were disproportionate and more severe than other state agencies/departments
  • Nearly two-thirds (31) of states are providing less state funding

So federal, state and local education budgets all still haven’t returned to pre-recession levels.

But while today’s economy is recovering, school districts continue to operate on lower budgets adopted as a result of the recession.

For example, look at the graph of the U.S. National Home Price Index below:

home-price-index-usa

Right before the recession started, the index level was 175.19 in November 2007. Since then, it dipped as low as 134.01 in February 2012 before climbing to the most recent result of 175.61 in February 2016.

So it begs the question: why are education funds still being cut?

Well, let’s start at the top at the federal level and work our way down to local funding.

Despite federal support only accounting for roughly 12 percent of all education dollars in the U.S., aid to states has declined significantly.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, federal support has been particularly bad since 2012, when states’ emergency fiscal relief funds from the federal government were allowed to expire. These funds helped up until 2011 but after that, states were left hanging.

Adding to states’ struggles, federal policymakers have cut ongoing federal funding for states and localities, thereby worsening state fiscal conditions. Funding for high-poverty schools has dropped 11 percent from since 2010 and special education programs are down 9 percent.

federal-education-spending-usa

Even though most education spending in the United States is from state and local sources, the federal government still funds more than 80 education programs. These programs benefit children of all ages, from infants to high school.

From a state perspective, the main sources of revenue to fund education and other services are income and sales taxes.

So with homeowners still feeling the effects of a plummeting of home values that’s only recently started to improve recently, many are expressing caution to draw on home equity and make large purchases.

This doesn’t bode well for K-12 schools, since as much as 46 percent of all education funding comes from the state level and these schools rely heavily on state assistance.

Locally, the decline of the property values made it extremely difficult for school districts to raise additional funds through property taxes and compensate for state cuts.

To make matters worse, the hundreds of thousands of education jobs that were cut after the recession have yet to be replaced, and there’s been growth of more than 800,000 students since 2008.

Enhancing Education With a Lower Cost

What’s one way to make resources go farther in a world where the student-to-teacher ratio is higher than ever?

From individual education plans to college preparation, video conferencing can be of great help in K-12 classrooms.

Subject Matter Experts

College and universities bring in guest lecturers all the time. Why can’t elementary and secondary schools host guest speakers from around the world to add value to what’s already being taught?

If it’s a matter of resources, it’s true that universities have much more money than public schools but K-12 students shouldn’t ever be denied the opportunity to hear from a subject matter expert — especially on something like cost.

Connecting with Classrooms in Other Countries

Oftentimes it’s easy to think of collaboration as being limited to people in the same school or same school district.

But what about enabling your students to collaborate with a school on another continent halfway across the world?

It might sound crazy, but many North American-based schools are doing just that in an effort to expose their students to other cultures and viewpoints.

Take George Mason High School as an example. A small secondary school just outside of Washington, D.C., they have a lot of students whose parents work for the U.S. State Department and, as a result, have lived all around the world and are very aware of what’s happening globally.

So to add value to their history, economics, and politics classes, they’ve used video conferencing to collaborate and interact with students from schools in more than 35 countries including South Korea, Zimbabwe, and Afghanistan.

Virtual Field Trips

An area where cuts to K-12 education spending has been particularly felt is when it comes to field trips and other educational travel.

In a December 2015 study by the School Superintendents Association, 34% of U.S. schools have eliminated field trips entirely, more than double the amount from 2009.

Whether it’s your school board or your studentss’ parents that can’t afford conventional field trips, consider engaging in real-time interviews and tours through field trips over video conferencing.