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Districts Brace for Big Cuts, But Are They Cutting the Right Way?

Not a day goes by that I don't hear about a school district somewhere in the country trimming (or in some cases, slashing) its budget to try and close a funding hole. I compiled some of those situations into a story that will be in the paper edition of Education Week next week, but is already online.

In the course of my reporting, I spoke to education finance expert Jim Guthrie, who is a senior fellow at the Bush Institute as well as an education professor at Southern Methodist University, both in Dallas. First, he scolded me and Education Week (nicely) for focusing on the idea that school districts are facing cuts, instead of keeping front and center the perspective that per-pupil funding has been going up for decades, even when controlled for inflation. (His numbers come from the National Center for Education Statistics, and you can check the source here.)

In the book Stretching the School Dollar, Guthrie and co-author Arthur Peng do say that districts are facing a "fiscal tsunami," though, because those years of increases to per-pupil spending may be coming to an end. But he said that school districts aren't responding smartly to the challenge of reduced funding—it'll take governors to make the systemic changes Guthrie thinks need to happen. "They're going to cram efficiencies onto their school districts," he said. In other writings he has said that meaningful changes can only come from changing teacher pay policies.

Those are fighting words to many in the education community. What do readers think? What kinds of cuts are you seeing in your own communities?

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