School budget cuts across the US projected for next academic year
As state and local governments slash spending and federal stimulus dries up, school budget cuts for the next academic year could be the worst in a generation.
The economy may be on the mend, but signs of decline still dominate in America's public schools as they plan their budgets for next year: Thousands of teachers once again brace for pink-slip season; more students will sit elbow-to-elbow in crowded rooms; computers that break down will sit unused; and kids will bring home longer lists of supplies – from crayons to sanitary wipes – that parents are supposed to buy for their classrooms.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"It's going to be the most difficult year we've had in probably 30 years," says Michael Griffith, a senior policy analyst with the Education Commission of the States in Denver. Even wealthier districts that have so far been insulated are starting to feel the pinch, he says.
While some of the roughly $100 billion in federal stimulus dollars for education will still flow during the next school year, continued state and local funding cuts are eating into their impact. To stave off an estimated loss of 100,000 or more education jobs, Sen. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa proposed a $23 billion school bailout April 14, but it's not clear how quickly the proposal could move forward if it gains traction.
Many districts have already made cuts to transportation, textbook and technology spending, and extracurricular activities. In a recent survey of school districts, 43 percent of respondents reported budget cuts of 10 percent or less for this academic year, and 21 percent reported cuts of 11 to 25 percent, according to the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).
Looking ahead to the 2010-11 school year, districts reporting cuts of 10 percent or less from this year's level rose to 48 percent. Those foreseeing cuts of 11 to 25 percent jumped to 30 percent, the survey found. This next round of cuts, Mr. Griffith says, "is affecting classroom teachers one way or another, either with the class size rising, or cutting the school week ... or cutting the school year."
Los Angeles schools avoided laying off more than 2,000 teachers through a union-district agreement to cut five days off this school year and two more days off next year. (At time of writing the agreement was awaiting school board approval.)
In Chicago, district leaders warned this winter that the impending $1 billion budget deficit could lead to class sizes of 37 and drastic cuts to early-childhood education. Officials are waiting to hear whether the governor will sign a pension-reform bill that would save the district $400,000 before providing a detailed budget – though they will still need to make severe cuts.
In Georgia's DeKalb County School District, plans to close a budget gap of more than $100 million include shutting down four schools, enlarging classes, forcing seven furlough days, and cutting more than 400 jobs. Neighboring Fulton County will do away with some 1,000 jobs, including nearly 500 teaching positions, and eliminate elementary school bands and orchestras.
New Jersey superintendents learned last month that Gov. Chris Christie (R) was going to cut $820 million in state education aid. Nearly 93 percent of school districts in the state plan to lay off staff – including teachers, in most cases – according to a survey by the New Jersey School Boards Association. Sixty percent said programs such as art, music, and foreign languages would also see cuts.