SAN FRANCISCO – The nation’s public schools are falling under severe financial stress as states slash education spending and drain federal stimulus money that staved off deep classroom cuts and widespread job losses.
School districts have already suffered big budget cuts since the recession began two years ago, but experts say the cash crunch will get a lot worse as states run out of stimulus dollars.
The result in many hard-hit districts: more teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, smaller paychecks, fewer electives and extracurricular activities, and decimated summer school programs.
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The situation is particularly ugly in California, where school districts are preparing for mass layoffs and swelling class sizes as the state grapples with another massive budget shortfall.
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The crisis concerns parents like Michelle Parker in San Francisco, where the school district is preparing to lay off hundreds of school employees and raise class sizes because it faces a $113 million budget deficit over next two years.
“I’m worried they’re not going to have the quality education that’s going to make them competitive in a global society,” said Parker, who has three kids in district elementary schools.
Around the country, state governments are cutting money for schools as they grapple with huge budget gaps triggered by high unemployment, sluggish retail sales and falling real estate prices. A recent report by theCenter on Budget and Policy Priorities found that 41 states face midyear budget shortfalls totaling $35 billion.
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