Why school stakeholders should worry about the ‘funding cliff’

“What school districts have done [previously] is eliminate things that do not involve personnel,” Jennings said.  “They’ll eliminate the purchase of textbooks, they’ll defer maintenance on buildings … but because they’ve had such a long period with fewer and fewer dollars, now they are letting go of teachers, including teachers of [core] academic subjects.”

These school budget cuts also are affecting education reform efforts, with more than half of districts planning to slow progress or indefinitely postpone education reform initiatives, while two thirds of districts already have done so. These reductions in reforms have implications for the United States’ future economic competitiveness within the global economy, according to the CEP’s report. The center warns that cuts here are likely to stall the actions necessary to boost the country’s economic future.

“What this means is that class sizes will increase, so that teachers will be teaching 20 students instead of 15 students. It means that teacher’s aides, counselors, and special reading instructors will no longer be present. There will be far fewer people that can help teachers do better,” Jennings said.

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While budget cuts are affecting districts in every sector—urban, suburban, town, and rural—a greater portion of suburban districts plan to cut staff to compensate for the decrease. In the past school year, teachers have been cut in about half of the country’s school districts, while many other programs, such as staff professional development, purchases of instructional materials, facilities maintenance, and student services, also have been severely cut back or eliminated altogether.

“We like to issue reports that show progress in American education … but unfortunately school people are telling us through these surveys that they’re facing difficulties in providing education, and I think they want the public to understand that,” said Jennings. He added that the survey received a larger and faster response than was anticipated.

“What this says to me is that school people want the public to understand they’re doing the best they can, but they’re in financial straitjackets,” he said.

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