If you’re a governor, legislator, budget director, or other state official, you don’t need to be told that education spending cuts are coming. After years of non-stop increases—national K-12 per-pupil spending is up by one-third in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1995—our schools now face near-certain repeated annual budget cuts for the first time since the Great Depression. In some states and districts, reductions will be dramatic—10 percent or even higher. And these new revenue-trend levels are likely to be semi-permanent, what with increased pressure on the public purse from the retirement of Baby Boomers, Medicaid and Medicare costs, debt payments, and other demands.
The challenge for education policymakers is not only to cut carefully so as not to harm student learning, but better yet, to transform these fiscal woes into reform opportunities: to cut smart and thereby help our schools and students emerge stronger than ever. Last week Fordham released a new policy brief to help state lawmakers do exactly that.