The Huffington Post has a great piece out about how increasing education spending has become a key issue for Democratic candidates running for Governor in states like Nevada, Michigan, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. The reason being is that since the 2008 great recession, many states have made deep cuts to education spending and haven’t recovered ever since. Here’s what The Center for American Progress reports:
On average, 47 percent of K-12 education funding comes from state revenue, while local government provides 45 percent, and the federal government provides the remaining 8 percent.4 Because schools depend on state funding for about half of their revenue, they must drastically cut spending when states provide less—especially when local districts cannot cover the gap. Over the past decade, states with the steepest funding declines have seen one-fifth of state education funding vanish.
Some of these cuts, particularly those made immediately following the recession, were a result of economic forces outside of states’ control. Once revenue began to rebound, however, many states enacted massive tax cuts that deprived state governments of revenue needed to increase education spending. In recent years, seven of the 12 states that have made the deepest funding cuts since 2008 chose to cut taxes rather than reinvest in education: Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.5 Notably, in spring 2018, three of these seven states—Arizona, Oklahoma, and North Carolina—experienced teacher walkouts in protest of insufficient education funding and low teacher salaries. The first state to have a walkout, West Virginia, had not made tax cuts but still had some of the deepest funding cuts in the nation.
Although the federal investment in education has always provided a small proportion of overall funding compared with state and local investments, the Trump administration has nonetheless sought to disinvest in education. In its budget requests for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, the Trump administration attempted to decrease federal spending for K-12 education.6 In the FY 2019 budget request—and just after enacting significant tax cuts for the wealthy—the administration suggested slashing funding for teachers and after-school programs, essentially requesting that teachers and students foot the bill for the tax cuts in the form of increased class sizes and canceled extracurricular and enrichment programming.7
The full report is worth the read. Basically, when you slash education funding you also cut teachers’ salaries causing greater income inequality. The Huffington Post piece mentions several governor races where this has become a key campaign issue for Democrats but it focuses heavily on the upcoming Governor’s race in Nevada:
The report also notes a growing body of academic research linking increased education spending to better student performance, noting states with high-performing schools tend to spend substantially more per pupil than low-performing states.
“It has been a lost decade for school funding, and the policy choices of some state leaders have exacerbated the situation,” said Lisette Partelow, one of the report’s co-authors. “What this means for students is that many are taught by underpaid teachers who often work second jobs, teach in buildings that are crumbling and in disrepair and don’t have access to the resources they need for a quality education.”
This echoes the message of Democrats running for governor across the country, particularly those in red states who hope to capitalize on teacher-led revolts over education spending. Maryland’s Ben Jealous, Arizona’s David Garcia, Flordia’s Andrew Gillum and Wisconsin’s Tony Evers are among the Democrats pledging to increase state spending on K-12 education. And in Nevada, Democratic candidate Steve Sisolak said education was his campaign’s “number one issue.”
“We’re at the bottom of every good list and at the top of every bad list,” Sisolak said in an interview, noting he recently went to his daughters’ high school and met a teacher with 48 students in her class and only 42 desks. “She told me she hopes six kids don’t show up on the first day,” he added.
Education has emerged as the dominant issue in the Nevada race, with both Sisolak and his GOP opponent, Attorney General Adam Laxalt, running multiple television ads on the topic.
Nevada’s school system has well-documented struggles: Its high-school graduation rate is just 73.6 percent, beating only New Mexico and Washington, D.C. Its student-teacher ratio ranks 48th in the country, according to the American Federation of Teachers, and it ranked 43rd in spending per pupil.
Sisolak said he’s hoping to dedicate more revenue from marijuana and hotel room taxes to education without increasing taxes. In 2015, popular GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval pushed through a $1.4 billion tax hike, with much of the revenue coming from a new tax on businesses with revenue over $4 million a year. Laxalt supports repealing the tax.
Laxalt’s support for the repeal is one of several reasons Sandoval has declined to endorse his fellow Republican – he’s said repealing the tax would be “devastating.” Sisolak, meanwhile, is happy to embrace the outgoing Republican governor.
“I think he’s done an incredible job getting us through a difficult time. He took the first couple steps. I want to continue that journey. I share his vision for education,” he said. “I think we ought to name a school after Brian Sandoval. That’s a first step.”
This is why it’s important we when a lot of Governor races this year. Click below to donate and get involved with Sisolak and the other Democrats running for Governor making education spending their top priorities: