Bleak outlook for education spending under sequestration

Sequestration will trigger huge education spending cuts: across-the-board cuts of more than 8 percent to federal programs.

As schools face ever-increasing budget dilemmas, education stakeholders are desperately hoping to avoid sequestration, or across-the-board cuts, to domestic spending next year—cuts that could devastate education programs and affect many of the country’s neediest students, experts say.

To avoid a government shutdown in 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act, which increased the national debt ceiling in exchange for a major reduction to federal deficits. Congress set limits to federal spending for 10 years and created a “supercommittee” tasked with creating legislation to reduce the deficit.

The Budget Control Act stipulates that if $1.2 trillion in savings is not approved, across-the-board cuts will go into effect in January 2013.…Read More

Debt-ceiling bill forces cuts to education spending

A $900 billion increase in the national debt ceiling would be matched by cuts to agency budgets over the next 10 years, including cuts to education funding.

After weeks of political posturing, the agreement reached by lawmakers to raise the nation’s debt ceiling contains some good news for low-income college students—and bad news for other education stakeholders.

With just hours left before the national debt bumps against its cap, emergency bipartisan legislation to allow the government to borrow more money faces one final test in the Senate. Expected passage there sends the bill to President Barack Obama, averting a potentially disastrous, first-ever government default and making a down payment toward taming budget deficits.

The legislation, which easily passed the House on Aug. 1, is virtually assured to clear the Senate shortly after noon Aug. 2 by a bipartisan tally. The White House promises Obama will sign the measure into law.…Read More

Schools struggle to recover amid years of cuts

The school budget crisis is far from over, as schools now face an end to federal stimulus money.

The Great Recession that began in late 2007 set in motion a growing budget crisis for American public schools that is far from over.

Around the country, states are cutting education spending to close gaping budget holes, while school districts are running out of federal stimulus money that had prevented widespread job losses over the past two years.

As budgets shrink and expenses grow, districts are laying off large numbers of teachers, raising class sizes, cutting electives such as music and art, scrapping summer school programs, and shortening the academic year.…Read More

Obama to GOP: Don’t cut education spending

Obama says education spending critical to nation's success

Placing a limit on his own willingness to slice spending, President Barack Obama issued a not-too-veiled warning at Republican budget cutters Tuesday and characterized any reductions in money for education as irresponsible and harmful to the long-term health of the nation’s economy.

In his most vigorous defense yet of his education spending proposals, Obama conceded that after years of deficits, the government needed to embrace fiscal discipline. And in a restrained speech to Democratic donors, he cautioned the partisan crowd not to equate compromise with failure.

“Not everything is a fight, not everything has to be a battle to the death,” he said to top-dollar contributors as they ate, surrounded by Renaissance paintings in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.…Read More

Obama’s ed budget a tough sell on Capitol Hill

While it provides a small boost for education, Obama's budget may have a tough time meeting approval.
President Barack Obama’s budget request for increased education spending is likely to face a tough fight against Republicans — and even if ends up being approved, the extra money wouldn’t stave off another round of layoffs and classroom cuts expected this year as federal aid dries up and states struggle to recover from the recession..

The 4.35 percent increase that Obama proposed on Feb. 14 would go toward expanding the highlights of his education agenda: A third round of Race to the Top, the competition that awarded $4.35 billion to 11 states and the District of Columbia last year for pursuing ambitious education reforms; a 10 percent increase in grants to turn around the nation’s lowest performing school; and $4.3 billion for teacher and principal development.

Additional education spending would maintain an increase in the maximum Pell grant awards to $5,500 by cutting $100 billion through reductions in graduate and professional student loan subsidies, as well as the eliminating the “year-round Pell” that allowed students to collect two grants in a calendar year.…Read More

If education were a business…

More than a million students are enrolled in highly inefficient districts, says the CAP report.

A controversial new study published by the Center for American Progress (CAP) analyzes K-12 school districts based on their productivity: the academic achievement a district produces relative to its education spending.

CAP researchers call their new index for evaluating school systems “educational productivity,” and according to the study, low efficiency costs the nation’s school systems as much as $175 billion a year in unproductive spending. Released last week, the report was blasted by many critics who argued that the success of a school system cannot be measured like that of a business.

“At a time when states are projecting more than $100 billion in budget shortfalls, educators need to be able to show that education dollars produce significant outcomes—or taxpayers might begin to see schools as a weak investment,” says the report.…Read More

Is the golden age of education spending finally over?

As America starts to grapple with its out-of-control spending habits, we as a nation really should reckon with our education costs, says Andrew Rotherham for Time. Few federal education programs were targeted by President Obama’s deficit-reduction commission, but that’s because most school funding comes from the state and local levels. And that’s where the big-time money problem is. According to a report issued jointly last week by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers, when federal stimulus funds run out in 2011, states – and, by extension, schools – will tumble off a fiscal cliff, and even an economic upturn won’t bring state funding back up to where it was a few years ago. The problem, however, is not just the struggling economy. In 1970 America spent about $228 billion in today’s dollars on public schools. In 2007 that figure was $583 billion. True, some of the increase can be traced back to growing enrollments, better programs, and improved services for special-education and other students, but much of the increase is just a lot of spending without a lot to show for it. And given all the various pressures on state budgets (including our aging population, health care costs and the substantial obligations states and school districts owe for pensions and benefits), the golden age of school spending is likely coming to an end. One of the big problems with reforming education spending is that school districts are opaque and often deliberately confusing about how they’re using their dollars. When education analyst Adam Schaeffer recently looked at a sample of school districts from all over the country, he found their actual spending was, on average, 44% more than the officially stated amount. Items such as capital costs, meaning buildings and renovations, frequently are considered off-budget so that they are not reflected in the per-pupil spending school districts and states report publicly. Likewise, calculations of how much money is spent at each school often do not include teacher salaries, which account for the majority of spending. These practices further mask the ridiculous spending inequities that exist within many states, leaving poor students – who need more resources – with less than the wealthier kids nearby…

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