Amid Teachers' Strikes, At Least 12 States Spend Less on Schools Now Than Before the Recession

March 6, 2019 AT 7:35 AM

By Aimee Picchi

The U.S. economy has largely recovered from the Great Recession, but one segment is still struggling to regain its financial footing: America's public schools.

State funding for public K-12 schools remains lower than before the recession in a number of states, including five where teachers have gone on strike in the last year, according to a new analysis of state budgets and Census data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank. It examined 12 states that made especially deep cuts after the recession and found that their spending still hasn't caught up.

It's likely that more states will experience teacher strikes given the ongoing struggles with funding in many states, said Michael Leachman, senior director of state fiscal research at CBPP.

The findings help shed light on why teachers across the country -- from West Virginia to California -- have taken to the picket lines since early 2018. In some cases, states that cut spending on their public schools failed to boost it again even as their tax revenues improved. That's leading to a host of challenges for students and teachers in underfunded schools, from teacher shortages to crowded classrooms.

"A sizable number of states have slipped backwards," Leachman said. "These trends are very concerning."

Increases in state funding can boost the outcomes for children, which in the long term benefits the economy, the CBPP noted. Low-income children whose schools received a 10 percent bump in per-pupil spending before they enrolled in public school ended up earning 10 percent more when they reached adulthood, according to a 2016 study from researchers at Northwestern and University of California, Berkeley.

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