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Recession Forcing School Cuts, Consolidations, NGA Says

During many recessions, states protect school programs and services from deep budget cuts, reasoning that reductions in those areas have long-term, negative consequences for students and communities.

Not so this time around.

Many states have been forced to eliminate school programs and and consolidate school districts, and are considering increasing class sizes and adjusting the length of the school year to save money during "The Great Recession," according to a new report by the National Governors Association.

As many as 39 states have made broad program area cuts in K-12 during the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, concludes the report, which focuses on states' efforts to redesign their governments during the recession. One of the goals of the states, the NGA says, has been to retrench and "concentrate resources on core curriculum" and put a hold on any planned expansions in school programs.

The lean era for education is also likely to last for at least a few years. State revenues aren't expected to return to pre-recession levels until at least 2013, the report states. The seriousness of state budget woes have led state officials in Texas and Florida to consider increasing class sizes. Maine officials consolidated school districts across the state two years ago, with the goal of saving $36.5 million. Other victims of budget shortfalls, identified by the NGA: after school programs, gifted-and-talented programs, and even state tests in some subjects. Expect more budgetary pain in the time ahead.

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