By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY – A report out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that since 2008, Alabama has led the Nation in funding cuts to K-12 education.
Another recent study ranking Alabama in the top ten most politically corrupt states in America concluded that education spending was universally lower in states where public officials are corrupt, reinforcing the theme of the juxtaposed research featuring the Yellowhammer State.
With about $1,200 cut per student since 2008, classrooms across the state have seen significant budget reductions.
While only about a dozen state increased funding during this period – a vast minority – Nebraska, for example, managed to increase spending per student by about the same amount as Alabama cut it during the measured time frame.
Education spending in Alabama, which is drafted from the Education Trust Fund Budget, comes from several sources, though growth in the fund is little year to year. Higher education institutions also battle annually in the legislature for their portion of ETF appropriations, funding which usually falls within a two thirds to one third ratio between the two.
As in all states, educational funding in the State took a particular toll with the recession of late last decade, but Alabama has been slower than the average in regaining its economic foothold, a fact highlighted by the study. This recessional funding crisis of 2007-2008 was also exacerbated institutionally, with local districts – who historically have the least to give – being forced to bear the burden of tight state budgets and changing state politics.
This report on educational spending cuts state by state comes on the heels of an announcement by Tallapoosa County Schools that they are laying off library aide workers throughout the system due to decreased funding mandated by the Alabama Accountability Act, which the system says cost their schools alone well into the six figures annually – around $30 million for public schools statewide.
In addition, though he did not highlight it at the time, included among Governor Bentley’s $1 billion in savings to the state of Alabama announced by his office were the savings earned by the loss of 2,500 teaching jobs.
States with highest K-12 cuts since 2008; change in spending per student (inflation adjusted)
1. Alabama – $1,242
2. Wisconsin – $1,038
3. Kansas – $950
4. Idaho – $930
5. New Mexico – $874
6. California – $873
7. Oklahoma – $810
8. Georgia – $707
9. Virginia – $695
10. Mississippi – $648