Putting education cuts in perspective

Friends don't let friends believe lazy LA Times articles about education budget cuts:

Last year, K-12 budgets were cut $1.8 billion nationwide. According to estimates by the National Assn. of State Budget Officers, cuts to K-12 for the new fiscal year may reach $2.5 billion.

"They've long since been cutting deep into the bone," said Michael Leachman of the nonpartisan Center on Budget Policies and Priorities, based in Washington.

CBPP may have an axe to grind here: they believe government costs what it costs and seem to have little interest in increasing the effectiveness of services. But it's too bad the Times didn't investigate these "historic cuts" a little more deeply.

The nation spends over $600 billion a year on K-12 education. So $4.3 billion in cumulative cuts over two years amounts to less than 1 percent of all spending. If you cut your household budget by 0.7%, would you call that "cutting deep into the bone"? No. Yet analysts and politicians are trying to sell you on the notion that schools can't absorb a 0.7% cut without getting rid of art, libraries, and thousands of teachers.

The truth is, the depth and impact of education budget cuts have varied from place to place. California has indeed seen harmful cuts, in part due to dysfunction in Sacramento and the intransigence of special interests. But the story need not be so dire.?The real question to ask is not why education budgets have seen tiny cuts in one of the worst economic environments in years, but rather why these miniscule cuts have impacted students so badly in states and localities that have not been responsible in their spending.

? Chris Tessone

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