Finding new ways to stretch a dollar is a common challenge for many public sector entities these days. Schools are particularly feeling the crunch, especially as the 2012-13 school year begins. A study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reveals that 26 states are providing less funding per student to local school districts this year compared to one year ago.

While these funding cuts have been modest, the report points out that “in many states, they come on top of severe cuts made in previous years.”

The report also says that school funding remains well below pre-recession levels in many states and that 35 states provide less funding per student than they did five years ago. Arizona, Alabama, and Oklahoma have cut per-student spending by 20 percent or more since 2008, according to the report.

Some states, like Florida, have begun to restore school funding, but have far to go to recover past years’ cuts.

The report points out that not all states have cut education funding, and, in fact, some have increased it. North Dakota has increased per-student by 28.2 percent over the past five years, leading the other states by a significant margin. North Dakota – like Alaska, Montana and Wyoming – has benefited from the oil and gas boom and, therefore, not suffered the same economic hardships as many other states that have been forced to make these tough choices. Other states were able to preserve education funding through policy decisions.

“Restoring school funding should be an urgent priority,” says the Center for Budget Priorities in its report, released on September 4, 2012. “The steep state-level K-12 spending cuts of the last several years have serious consequences for the nation.” These consequences range from the obvious impact on local school districts, to the effect on education funding formulas and overall economic recovery.

The full report is available on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website.