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Per-student spending dropped by a fifth in Oklahoma and Alabama in just six years


(Brandon Dill/THE WASHINGTON POST)

At least 34 states are spending less per student this school year than six years ago, according to a new report out today.

Of those, thirteen states have seen per-student declines of 10 percent or more, after adjusting for inflation. The report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank focused on policies that affect the poor and middle-class, shows per-student spending in two states, Oklahoma and Alabama, is currently more than 20 percent below pre-recession levels. While 34 states are spending less now than before the recession, 15 have are also spending less this year than last.

“The reduced levels reflect not only the lingering effects of the 2007-09 recession but also continued austerity in many states; indeed, despite some improvements in overall state revenues, schools in around a third of states are entering the new school year with less state funding than they had last year,” the report found. The report compares spending levels for the 2014 fiscal year, which for many states began in July, with those of 2008.

The decline in per-student spending is a reflection of an overall drop. A spring report from an association of state budget officers found that spending in the 2013 fiscal year was 7.6 percent lower than in 2008, when adjusted for inflation. And state tax revenues this fiscal year are also projected to be below pre-recession levels.

“[S]tates are challenged with providing resources for critical areas that were cutback in the recession, declining federal funds for state programs subject to sequestration, and continued spending demands in areas directly impacted by the sluggish economy, such as Medicaid, higher education and corrections,” the report found.

Oklahoma saw the steepest decline over the past several years, with per-student spending 22.8 percent lower. Per-student spending in Alabama was 20.1 percent down, while Arizona was next with a decline of 17.2 percent. North Dakota, largely spared from the recession thanks to its oil boom, saw a giant 27.2 percent increase in per-student spending. Iowa was next with an 11.2 percent increase, followed by Connecticut at 7.5 percent.

Spending in Oregon increased the most year over year, rising 10 percent. Per-student spending in Florida is also up 7.2 percent and North Dakota’s spending this fiscal year is up 4.8 percent. Alaska, West Virginia and Kansas saw per-student spending declines of 3.2 percent, 2.9 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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