Arizona State School Funding
After the Great Recession of 2007 – 2009, most states cut the school funding, a move that has taken years to restore. According to a report by Leachman, Masterson, and Figueroa (2017), up until 2015, comprehensive spending data on the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that at least 29 states were still providing less school funding per student as opposed to their total state funding in 2008. Among them, Arizona state funding for Kindergarten to K-12 public school system remained nearly below 14 percent as compared to the way it was before the Great Recession. A report by Bice (2018) further shows that even after infusing money since Governor Ducey took office in 2016, the state funding has remained significantly low. In light of this, we make a comprehensive analysis of the political process and its influence in changing public policies on budgeting at the state level. We make a detailed description is how the change in the Arizona K-12 budget cut came about and its impact on the resulting program. Further, we identify the economic, social, and cultural influences that caused the change in budget, identify the interaction among federal, state, and municipal levels with regard to the K-12 budget cuts. Additionally, we specify the limits of the agency budget office and ways they may try to compensate for the limits as well as the various strategies agencies may use to justify budget cuts.
How the Change came about and its Effect on the Program
The Great Recession began in 2007 and was the most severe economic downturn in the United States, since the Great Depression. States saw a decline in funds due to lowered income tax revenues as unemployment rose and sales tax went down due to lower consumption. When the recession hit the country, it affected the state and local government’s ability to fund school districts, which forced them to trim budgets for public schools. Although some of the states have recovered from the recession and increased their spending on public education, other states such as Arizona are still lagging behind. According to an analysis, Arizona cut funding to K-12 public schools more than any other State from 2008 to 2015 and although it has restored some funding, the state is yet to recover fully.
Effect of the Cut on Public School Education
More than 90 percent of public school funding in the United States comes from state and local governments (U.S Department of Education, n.d). During the great recession, state governments had a problem adjusting to a new budget, which was reflected in various areas including public education. The adjusted budget had several repercussions on the delivery of education services and student learning. For instance, the local funding per student fell by a higher percentage. School districts also began cutting down on the number of teachers and by mid-2012, school districts had cut at least 351,000 jobs (Leachman et al., 2017). The impact was felt on the quality of education delivered especially to poor students since the ratio of teachers to students had significantly reduced.
Economic Influences that Caused the Change in the Budget
The period between December 2007 and June 2009, the United States and the whole world was caught up in a state of a global recession that saw the economy begin to slump (“The Great Recession,” n.d). The recession was triggered by falling housing prices, as subprime borrowers defaulted their low-interest rates loans. Banks had already sold too many mortgage-based securities than they could manage with good mortgages. The recession came to a climax in September 2008 with the collapsing of the Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest investment bank in the country (Investopedia, n.d). While the recession originated from the housing sector, its impact was quickly spread to every other sector in the United States. Federal, state, and local governments saw a decline in funds as increased levels of unemployment and low sales revenues translated to lower income taxes revenues. The financial crisis limited the ability of the state government to fund the majority of the public programs. The result was to cut funding in various sectors and one of them was public education funding. To manage other sectors, state government cut their budget towards public schools by a bigger margin and has been unable to restore the previous funding fully.
The Federal, State, and Municipal Government in Education Funding
Historically, the Federal government has played a significantly minor role in education. In fact, the federal government did not issue any policy related to education until the 1960s. The primary source of K-12 support from the federal level started in 1965 after the enactment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (U.S. Department of Education, n.d). Similarly, the federal government concern on education has mostly been focused on sensitizing for equal access to education, as well as safeguarding both students’ and teachers’ constitutional rights. More specifically, among the areas funded by the federal include grants for children from low-income families, school library resources, and other institutional materials. Consequently, the Federal government contributes a significantly small amount towards education funding. In approximation, the Federal contributes about 8 percent, which includes funds from other Federal agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services, and not from the Department of Education only. In essence, education in the United States is primarily a state and municipal government responsibility. It is the responsibility of the states and the local communities to establish schools, develop the curricula, determine the requirements, and even contribute a bigger share of the education funding. The structure of the education finance reflects that education funding is solely a responsibility of the states, contributing about 92 percent of the total funds needed for the public education programs in the U.S (U.S. Department of Education, n.d). Overall, the state and the municipal levels contribute a significantly large amount of funding towards the public education programs as compared to the federal level.
Limits of the Agency Budget Office
K-12 education funding in Arizona is a priority for political leaders and educators. The department of education is administered by the Superintendent of Public Instruction in an elected post. The superintendent works together with the State Board of Education in developing and implementing educational guidelines and standards. Alongside the educational guidelines, the department also executes information dissemination, administration, and allocation of funds among other roles. Annually, the agency budget total for the year 2018 is exactly 6,453,673.5, with the funds coming from the general fund, other appropriated and non-appropriated funds (“State of Arizona Executive Budget,” 2018). The Executive Initiative has proposed spending more than $200m above the Education baseline. $100m is proposed to be spent in a new, permanent, flexible per-pupil funding as a part of a proposed 5-year $371m restoration plan to end the Recession-era budget cuts.
Strategies Agencies and Politicians Use to Justify to Increase or Decrease Budget
School funding is a top issue for Arizona legislators and while there is a broad agreement on the improvements that must be done, agencies and politicians might use various strategies to justify the decrease or increase of budget. For instance, politicians might use an economic crisis like in the case of education budget cuts to cut down on budgets. On the other hand, politicians can decrease the budget allocation to secure economic growth in the face of a looming or a current economic crisis. The budget cuts would be done to be able to continue funding other areas that are sensitive and may not cope with a budget cut. Additionally, the legislators may cut budgets to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers, who may be required to give more in taxes. By cutting budgets, the politicians will argue that this will reduce the amount required to fund some programs and relieve the taxpayers of the financial burden.
In the United States, it is normal for public programs to undergo significant budgetary change. After the great recession, a majority of the public programs across the nation were affected. The department of education was among the sectors that suffered a major budget cut, with the K-12 public education program experiencing a major blow. The public education program in the state of Arizona was among the hardest hit by the aftermath of the great recession. Importantly noted, although the governor has been making efforts to help the public education program recover from the low budgetary funding, the amount allocated is still low compared to the amount allocated in 2008. The cut has also affected the state of education in the state. Nonetheless, it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that public education funding matches the federal requirements and that the state of education is not affected by low funding.
“State of Arizona Executive Budget.”(2018). Office of the Governor Doug Ducey. Retrieved from:https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/governor/documents/fy2019executivebudget-stateagencybookreduced2.pdf
“The Great Recession.” (n.d). Federal Reserve History. Retrieved from: https://www.federalreservehistory.org/essays/great_recession_of_200709
Bice, A. (2018). Gov. Ducey says Arizona put more money in K-12 education than other states. Is he right? Azcentral. Retrieved from: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/fact-check/2018/02/04/governor-doug-ducey-claims-arizona-spends-more-money-kindergarten-12-th-grade-education-other-states/1049342001/
Investopedia. (n.d). The Great Recession. Retrieved from: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/great-recession.asp
Leachman, M., Masterson, K., Figueroa, E. (2017). A punishing decade for school funding. Cener on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved from: https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/a-punishing-decade-for-school-funding
U.S. Department of Education. (n.d). The Federal role in education. Retrieved from: https://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/fed/role.html
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