State Education Cuts Endanger the FutureAugust 04, 2011
A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that many states have enacted deep, dramatic cuts to their K–12 and higher education budgets and that nearly all states are spending less money on education than they did in 2008 (after inflation). This is despite the fact that the demand for education is growing — the Department of Education predicts that in the next school year there will be about 260,000 more K–12 students and 1.5 million more public college and university students than there were in the 2007–08 school year. AAUW strongly believes that quality public education is the foundation of a democratic society and that education should be adequately and equitably funded. Yet, according to the report, our nation’s schools aren’t, and they are shortchanging our students and future.
At least 23 states have made significant cuts to K–12 education funding, preventing children’s access to critical learning opportunities and making class sizes even larger. As the CBPP put it, “In many cases, these cuts undermine school finance systems that are intended to reduce disparities between high-wealth and low-wealth school districts so that the largest impacts may be felt in communities that are least able to compensate for the loss of funds from their own resources.” The cuts to K–12 education are shortsighted and ultimately harmful to both children and the states’ own finances. Providing a foundation of strong early-childhood education will help improve and sustain achievement in later years and save precious taxpayer dollars down the road by setting children on the path to success.
The report also found that at least 25 states have made large cuts to funding for state colleges and universities, increasing tuition and the burden placed on students. This will pose a particular challenge to the growing number of nontraditional students — those who are part time, working, older, or parenting — as they struggle to pay for their education and will very likely cause student debt levels to increase even further. Since 1998, the average debt level for graduating seniors has nearly doubled, with the average student owing approximately $23,200. Because women are more likely to borrow money for college than men and will earn less on average after graduation, women graduates are more likely to struggle with their loan debt.
At the current rate, the United States will add over 16 million jobs by 2018 that require at least some postsecondary education and 2.5 million jobs that require a graduate degree. As the knowledge requirements of jobs continue to increase, so too should students’ access to quality education. Even in these difficult economic times, AAUW believes it is critical that we invest in higher education, which is hands down the most direct route to innovation, job creation, and long-term economic self-sufficiency.