Public Schools

What can Einstein Say? Advice for Educational \”Reformers\”


After reading the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' recent report, \”Most States Have Cut School Funding, and Some Continue Cutting,\” it seems that federal, state and local policymakers may want to don't forget this advice often related to Albert Einstein: \”Everything should be made as simple as possible, although not simpler.\”

Decades of effort and billions of dollars happen to be spent trying to find methods to make sure that all children receive a quality education with little if anything to show for that investment. The CBPP report suggests that we may be missing a very simple fix: ensure that we adequately fund our schools.

Most states provide less support per student for elementary and secondary schools-in some cases, much less-than before the Great Recession, our survey of state budget documents over the last 3 months finds. Worse, some states continue to be cutting eight years following the recession took hold.

CBPP discovered that states made widespread and deep cuts to education formula funding when the recession hit, and at least half of the states still haven't fully restored the cuts eight years later. After adjusting for inflation, twenty-five states are selling less general aid per student this year compared to 2008. In seven of those 25 states, the cuts are 10 % or even more. In three states-Oklahoma, Alabama, and Arizona-the cuts are 15 percent or greater.

The reasons that local and state funding for education has decreased are complex mixture of economic and political factors. But the impact of lower funding on our schools is clear. At a very basic level, ensuring that there is a proper schoolroom for each child is becoming much more difficult when confronted with sharp funding reductions:

Elementary and schools nationally cut capital spending by $28 billion, or 37 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2021 (the latest year available), after adjusting for inflation. Thirty-eight states cut capital spending over this period, oftentimes drastically. Five states cut capital spending by more than half. Nevada, the state with the sharpest reductions, cut capital spending by 81 percent.

With more students to show, funding reductions have led to a loss of revenue of almost 300,000 educators. CBPP also points out, \”Many states have undertaken education reforms with federal encouragement, for example supporting professional development to enhance teacher quality, improving interventions for young kids to heighten school readiness, and turning around the lowest-achieving schools. Deep cuts in state K -12 spending can limit or stymie those reforms by limiting the funds generally open to improve schools by terminating or undercutting specific reform initiatives.\”

When viewed via a lens given to us by C. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker Johnson, and Claudia Persico in their recent paper, \”The Effect of School Finance Reforms on the Distribution of Spending, Academic Achievement, and Adult Outcomes,\” the CBPP findings take on greater meaning.

A 20 % increase in per-pupil spending each year for those 12 years of public school for kids from poor families results in about 0.9 more completed many years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, along with a 20 percentage-point decrease in the annual incidence of adult poverty; we find no effects for children from non-poor families. The magnitudes of these effects are sufficiently large to get rid of between two-thirds and every one of the gaps in these adult outcomes between those raised in poor families and those raised in non-poor families.

If we care about the education issues we appear to like arguing about, time for you to pay a lot more focus on Albert Einstein's advice and worry about the way we fund our schools properly and fairly.

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