As state governors warn of significant shortfalls in their budgets, many schools districts are facing the biggest cutbacks they’ve seen in decades. And in some cases, they’re already slashing.
In Virginia, the Fairfax County school district is considering everything from increasing class sizes to eliminating certain high-school sports starting next fall. In Florida, the Broward County School District is looking at thousands of layoffs and eliminating certain courses and activities. The Seattle School District is even considering shuttering certain schools. This year, the Los Angeles Unified School District has already reduced 600 administrative jobs at headquarters and delayed textbook purchases.
These moves have fired up parents. Julie Jackson, the parent of a fourth-grader at Kettering Elementary School in Long Beach, Calif., says parents there have for several years been raising money for salaries, supplies and programs that the state should be paying for in the first place. She and other parents are petitioning the governor and members of the state legislature to stop any further cuts. “The parents are now at a breaking point,” the petition states.
Among the forces behind the shortfalls: Job losses are cutting into state income-tax revenue; the erosion of home values is hurting property-tax revenue; and the drop in consumer spending reduces revenue from sales tax. As a result, 37 states are projecting midyear shortfalls this fiscal year, according to a survey by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. That is compared with only seven a year ago. Based on how things are going, the center estimates that total state budget gaps for next fiscal year will likely be around $100 billion, almost 10 times what it was last fiscal year, according to Elizabeth McNichol, senior fellow at the Washington D.C.-based center.