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September 13, 2013 12:32 PM The New Normal, Part I: Schools

By Ed Kilgore

Despite the sentiment in and around the Federal Reserve Board suggesting the economic recovery is now rolling along at a sufficient pace to make it necessary to “tap the brakes” with an end to monetary stimulus, we’re hardly back to anything like the status quo ante. That’s obvious to the long-term unemployed, those with real estate holdings still underwater, and those whose assets have been wiped out and have no prospect for regaining them.

I’m going to try whenever possible in the immediate future to draw attention to other aspects of the unsatisfactory situation we are implicitly being asked to accept as the “new normal.”

One was highlighted in a new study on school funding trends from Michael Leachman and Chris Mai for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

States’ new budgets are providing less per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did six years ago — often far less. The reduced levels reflect not only the lingering effects of the 2007-09 recession but also continued austerity in many states; indeed, despite some improvements in overall state revenues, schools in around a third of states are entering the new school year with less state funding than they had last year.

34 states haven’t restored per-pupil funding to where it was before the recession. 15 are operating at more than ten percent below pre-recession per-pupil levels. And 15 states have cut funding from last year.

Austerity may have been definitively repudiated in economic circles during the last couple of years. But it’s part of The New Normal in many states and for many schools.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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