Schools across the country could face a financial crisis and feel a lasting impact from the business shutdowns in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly half of school funding comes from the state, but tax revenues have dropped recently in response to the pandemic and a high unemployment rate, NPR reported.
The CEO of EdBuild, a school finance advocacy organization, is now warning people about the potential financial devastation that could set back an entire generation.
“I think we’re about to see a school funding crisis unlike anything we have ever seen in modern history,” CEO Rebecca Sibilia told NPR.
“We are looking at devastation that we could not have imagined … a year ago.”
State governments are required to balance their budgets, unlike the federal government, so many governors and state lawmakers have to make budget cuts to stay afloat.
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine has planned to cut $300.4 million from public K-12 schools just through June 30, according to cleveland.com.
That cut comes out to $304 per student for 20 Ohio school districts.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is asking school districts to prepare for a 14 percent cut, which could tally up to $1.6 billion in cuts for the fiscal year starting in July, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
These cuts will hit low-income communities in many states the hardest because school resources come almost evenly from state funding and local funding, with an emphasis on local funds.
“[W]hen state funding starts to drop, what we see is a separation between the haves and have-nots,” Michael Griffith of the Learning Policy Institute said to NPR.
Experts have said that the school cuts will mirror those made during the Great Recession with districts cutting staff, starting with librarians, nurses and counselors.
Districts will also cut spending on buildings, transportation, supplies and equipment.
“From the numbers we’re looking at right now, this coming year could be maybe twice as bad, or more, than the worst year had during the Great Recession,” Griffith said.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provided $13 billion in emergency funding for K-12 schools, but there has been some confusion on how that money could be spent.
Dozens of organizations representing teachers, principals and parents across the country wrote a letter to congressional leaders requesting at least $175 billion more for schools.
“While we don’t yet know what the full impact of the novel coronavirus that has spread across the nation will be, we do know that both the economic hardship and the grief and trauma that ensue from COVID-19 will be unprecedented for today’s school-age children,” the letter read.
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