Commentary: Schools will need help to recover
AP

Commentary: Schools will need help to recover

{{featured_button_text}}
Wearing his protective mask made by his wife, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine walks into his daily coronavirus news conference on Thursday, April 16, 2020 at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.

Wearing his protective mask made by his wife, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine walks into his daily coronavirus news conference on Thursday, April 16, 2020 at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Doral Chenoweth/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)

In the age of COVID-19, many U.S. states are facing unprecedented budget crises. If unchecked, these will lead to funding cuts that devastate public education, leave students less prepared for the future and weaken state economies that depend on a well-educated workforce.

The cuts have already begun, and they're sobering. In April alone, nearly 470,000 public school employees across America were furloughed or laid off. That's 100,000 more teachers and school staff who lost their jobs than during the worst point of the Great Recession a decade ago. At the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, we are closely analyzing state budget gaps because we know the tremendous harm that can result from funding cuts.

Recently, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, announced plans to cut $300 million in K-12 funding and $100 million in college and university funding for the current year. Meanwhile, Georgia's top budget officials told the state's schools to plan for large cuts for next year that will almost certainly force districts to lay off teachers and other workers.

With the deep economic downturn closing businesses and sending unemployment to its highest level since the 1930s, state income and sales taxes - on which states overwhelmingly rely - are drying up. As a result, our study estimated that state budget shortfalls during the next three years will total an eye-popping $765 billion.

So far, federal aid and states' own reserves are only sufficient to cover about one-fifth of that gap, leaving states $590 billion short. In addition, many local governments face enormous deficits of their own.

The impact on public education could be severe. Across the country, states provide 47% of all K-12 funding (with localities paying 45% and the federal government providing the rest). At the same time, education comprises about 26% of state budgets, making education cuts very hard to avoid at a time of big shortfalls.

The experience of the Great Recession of 2008 provides a sobering example of what may yet come.

School districts have never recovered from the layoffs they imposed back then. When COVID-19 hit, K-12 schools were employing 77,000 fewer teachers and other workers - even though they were teaching 2 million more children, and overall funding in many states was still below pre-2008 levels.

House Democrats have proposed nearly $1 trillion in additional state, local and education aid, and governors of both parties agree much more is needed. President Donald Trump and Congress need to provide significant fiscal relief to help states minimize any education cuts. But the Trump administration and some in Congress remain resistant.

Whatever federal policymakers do or fail to do, states will need to draw down their reserves, close tax loopholes, and find other ways to protect education funding and other programs serving vulnerable children and families. The education of a generation is at stake.

___

ABOUT THE WRITER

Nicholas Johnson is senior vice president for state fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

0
0
0
0
0

Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

It has often occurred to me that the appropriate response to some of the ridiculous things President Donald Trump utters is: "He's an idiot." Don't get me wrong (as op-ed writers like to say). I'm not impugning Trump's IQ. By "idiot" I mean something a bit different: that Trump often doesn't know what he's talking about. (That doesn't exclude the possibility that some of his misrepresentations ...

My junior and senior years in high school were 1968 and 1969; five decades later, I can still remember some of the main events of that era: the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, the bombing of Cambodia, the Apollo 8 spaceflight that orbited the moon, and Woodstock, which I pleaded with my parents to let me attend. (They said no.) In my personal life, I remember ...

Will your neighborhood school open on schedule in the fall? The answer should vary by location, but some headline-grabbing declarations are prolonging the uncertainty for families and students. And uncertainty leads to fear - an infectious state of mind best treated with a dose of common sense. Special-interest groups encouraged educators to "scream bloody murder" if collective bargaining and ...

It's not so bad. That was the rationale in Barbados in 1647, when British merchants and wealthy planters, seeking to preserve the island colony's slave trade, shrugged off the threat of the yellow fever epidemic that claimed thousands of lives. Also not so bad a hundred years later in Boston and other colonial seaports, when authorities played down the prevalence of smallpox so their customers ...

If your memory of Patrick Henry is hazy, ask your kids going to school in the other room for a refresher. He was the Founding Father who wrote the famed "give me liberty or give me death" speech of the American Revolution. I was reminded of his words recently in the place most people go to contemplate gifted orators of the past: the grocery store. Watching people wearing face masks and gloves ...

A recent report from the Well Being Trust estimates that about 68,000 Americans could die as a result of the isolation, loneliness and unemployment induced by the circumstances surrounding COVID-19. The White House cited statistics from the report - which predicts a surge of avoidable deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide - to support plans to reopen the economy. The president has repeatedly ...

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolds across the globe, one lesson is emerging: markets are extremely fragile, and critically needed help will come not from business but from governments. Neoliberal pundits and conservative economists have insisted in the past several decades that markets can be the solution to nearly every problem societies face. As Ronald Reagan, echoing Margaret Thatcher's ...

Nothing about the spread of the coronavirus or the nature of the disease suggests that it's safe to get back to business as usual. And yet "reopen" is the word on almost every American's lips, despite apocalyptic warnings from public heath experts suggesting that, without an aggressive national public health strategy, the country could face its "darkest winter." In the absence of a coherent ...

Some issues transcend politics - or they should. The role of the World Health Organization in combating the current pandemic is one of them. The White House has unveiled detailed complaints about the WHO in a new letter from the president. They are serious complaints, and well-justified. This is, after all, a deadly serious situation. Pandemics are dangerous. The world has had a number of ...

If you're like me, your social media feeds have been featuring dire news about institutions that once seemed - falsely, it turns out - unassailable. First for me was City Lights Books, which on April 9 announced a GoFundMe campaign to address "dwindling" cash reserves; without it, the store, first opened in 1953 in San Francisco's North Beach, was at risk of shutting down for good. Next was ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News