Inflation-adjusted state funding per student in 2015 up 2.2% in Washington over 2008 level; most states reduced funding

A new report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal policy research group, analyzes state and local funding for education since the recession. With K-12 education generally being the biggest expenditure for states – vying with Medicaid – it’s unsurprising that K-12 spending grew slowly or not at all.

Washington turns out to be one of the minority of states that shows increased inflation-adjusted funding per student from 2008 to 2015. CBPP reports an increase of 2.2 percent increase, the 14th largest increase among the states. That might not seem like much, until you put it in this perspective:

In 2015, the latest year for which comprehensive spending data are available from the U.S. Census Bureau, 29 states were still providing less total school funding per student than they were in 2008.   

CBPP also find reductions in local support.

In 19 states, local government funding per student fell over the same period, adding to the damage from state funding cuts.  In states where local funding rose, those increases usually did not make up for cuts in state support.

When state and local spending are combined, Washington again looks stronger than many states, posting an inflation-adjusted per student spending increase of 5.7 percent from 2008 to 2015, the 10th highest increase among the states.

The CBPP report generally takes a “more is better” view of education spending and argues the funding reductions delayed the recovery and undercut education reform efforts. In some states, that’s no doubt true. As is this CBPP conclusion:

To prosper, businesses require a well-educated workforce. Deep education funding cuts weaken that future workforce by diminishing the quality of elementary and high schools. At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, large cuts in funding for basic education undermine a crucial building block for future prosperity.

Washington, however, while contending with our own school funding challenges, maintained investments better than most states, avoiding the “deep education funding cuts” that are the primary focus of the CBPP report.