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Fiscal Double-Whammy for Schools

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"Inflation Hits Annual Pace Not Seen Since 1991," reads a headline from today's online New York Times.

Though you don't have to be a Nobel Prize-winning economist to know the economy's in bad shape, this news just reaffirms that many school districts are in for a long, tough, budget-cutting road ahead of them.

The fact that gas prices have skyrocketed is bad enough for school districts struggling to fuel their buses. But other costs are rising too—from food to health care, and even education supplies and books, according to the Consumer Price Index. But making matters worse is that most states are also experiencing a slump in tax collections, which fund schools.

Bottom line: Prices are going up, and there's less money to go around. A fiscal double-whammy.

I don't envy those who are running for office in the states with a slumping economy, because they'll be tasked with the unpopular job of making cuts to public services—and cutting funding for public schools is probably one of the most politically difficult of all cuts to make.

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Making the right, tough budget choices on education benefits children, but it also bodes well for elected officials at the polls and can prevent future fiscal demands.

We're releasing a report in late September, "Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K," that suggests despite an overall grim fiscal outlook, 32 state legislatures and Washington, DC will increase funding for pre-k in FY09. Thankfully, at least when it comes to early education, our state leaders are choosing to make the tough financial sacrifices now for a pay-off in the future.

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