Devastating Budget Cuts Still Look Like Increases So Far

May 6, 2013

Devastating Budget Cuts Still Look Like Increases So Far. The National Center for Education Statistics issued its “First Look” at comprehensive school district revenues and expenditures for the 2009-10 school year. It’s a welcome report, though not exactly a “first look” since it uses U.S. Census Bureau figures available since last fall.

According to the authoritative National Bureau of Economic Research, America’s “Great Recession” began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Because of the vast number of agencies involved, it takes years to gather and report definitive public education revenue and spending data. So while we may eventually see figures that corroborate the tales of woe we hear from those quarters, that time has not yet arrived. Quite the contrary, in fact.

Here are a few of the center’s findings:

* School districts reported $599.9 billion in total revenues.

* That was an increase of 0.8 percent from the previous year, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

* Current expenditures per-pupil, however, rose 1.0 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

* Some states did experience significant spending cuts – Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah all had reductions of more than 5 percent. On the other hand, Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, West Virginia and the District of Columbia all increased spending by more than 5 percent.

* About 61.2 percent of those expenditures went towards employee salaries, and another 21.3 percent to employee benefits. That left about 17.5 percent for just about everything else – student transportation, school books and materials, energy costs, external services, and supplies.

* Outside of current per-pupil spending, we spent $47.1 billion on school construction, $3.3 billion on land and existing structures, $9.4 billion on equipment, and $17.7 billion in interest on school debt.

These numbers are important not just because they highlight the truly awe-inspiring amount we spend on public education, even in terrible economic times, but what we spend it on as well. Whether you think it’s too much or too little, it’s mostly spent on labor, and so the economics and politics of labor have an influence far beyond any focus on curriculum, performance or evaluation. School is big business.

Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics April 30-May 6:

*  Who Cares About Apathy? Lack of member involvement can work to your advantage.

Nope, Still Not Worried About Charter School Unionization. Pushing against the tide.

Sometimes the Union Is Not at Fault (It’s True!). A taste of IRS bureaucracy.

*  Around the Horn. A farrago of factoids from across the country.

Mobile Site No Longer Stationary. Tech problem fixed.

Quote of the Week. “Once they got somebody in there they thought was doing a good job, they let them stay forever. It was like pulling teeth to get people to do any of those (union) jobs.” – Philip Dello Stritto, former Auburn Teachers Association vice president under the late Sally Jo Widmer, who was alleged to have stolen $808,000 from the union. (May 5 Syracuse Post-Standard)