K-12’s Budget Cut Paradox

notes that despite the constant press about education spending being cut across the board, per-pupil spending figures show uninterrupted increases year on year.

Let's look at the last 10 years for convenience, and the last three to examine the effects of national recession. In 2001-02, there were 2,991,724 K-12 classroom teachers and 47,360,963 K-12 students. K-12 per-pupil spending was $7,676.

Ten years later, there were almost 7 percent more teachers and 4 percent more students. Per-pupil spending was $10,976 – a 43% increase (12.6% in constant dollars).

If we compare this year's numbers to three years ago, we see an enrollment increase of 0.5 percent, a teacher reduction of 0.4 percent, and an increase in per-pupil spending of 6 percent (1.5% in constant dollars).

So, even during the recession there has only been a reduction in teaching number of less than half a percent, while more money is somehow being spent per pupil. The school districts which have had budgets ‘slashed' and actually do spend less now than at the start of the recession garner a lot of press attention but the national averages show that quietly slipping under the press radar appear to be many districts with budget increases sizable enough to completely offset the savings from the parsimonious districts and create an overall rise in spending.

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