School districts are under tremendous pressure to provide a quality education to students with ever tighter budgets.
A 2016 survey of state budget documents conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that most states provide less support for elementary and secondary school students — in some cases, much less — than before the Great Recession. Even eight years after the recession, some states are still cutting budgets.
The 2016 survey indicates that (after adjusting for inflation):
- At least 31 states provided less state funding per student in the 2014 school year than in the 2008 school year, before the recession took hold. In at least 15 states, the cuts exceeded 10 percent.
- In at least 18 states, local government funding per student fell over the same period (2008-2014). In at least 27 states, local funding rose but those increases rarely made up for cuts in state support. Total local funding nationally ― for the states where comparable data exists ― declined between 2008 and 2014, adding to the damage from state funding cuts.
- While data on total school funding in the 2016 school year is not yet available, at least 25 states were still providing less “general” or “formula” funding ― the primary form of state funding for schools ― per student than what was in 2008. In seven states, the cuts exceeded 10 percent.
- Most states slightly raised “general” funding per student in 2016 but 12 states imposed new cuts, even as the national economy continues to improve. Some of these states include Oklahoma, Arizona, and Wisconsin, and were already among the deepest-cutting states since the recession hit.
In addition, private provision of education, with public tax support, has been increasing. The number of charter schools, for example, has grown exponentially. The recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary points to a continuation of this trend, in light of her view of state-supported charter schools. As more and more public dollars are being diverted to private providers, money will be placed into the hands of private organizations rather than school districts.
As a result of this funding squeeze, the budgeting process for school districts needs to be focused on optimizing student achievement with the available resources. It requires a complete cycle for long-term financial planning and budgeting, including planning and preparation for undertaking the budget process, developing a budget, evaluating how the budget process worked and adjusting accordingly.
K-12 districts will require tools that deliver proven practices, resulting in a cohesive budget process that is centered on aligning resources with student outcomes through a strong collaboration between academic and finance staff.
Questica, a proven software provider, has been providing budgeting solutions to the public sector since 1998 and currently manages over $55 billion in annual public sector budgets. If you agree that your school district needs a comprehensive suite of financial management tools to deal with continuous budget pressures, request a demo of Questica’s solutions for K-12 today.