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Fair and Equitable Reductions to State Education Budgets: Evidence and Considerations for the 2020/21 Fiscal Year

By Jason Willis, Sean Tanner


In the wake of public-health stay-at-home orders prompted by the coronavirus, the United States faces a nearly inevitable economic recession in the coming months. With a slowing economy will come a contraction in state revenues, including funding for public education.

States are beginning to make budget-cutting calculations and are bracing for the effects of those cuts, even as they take into account likely support from the recent series of federal aid packages, with potentially more aid to come. What has been learned from the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008 is that some of the policy decisions states made as they cut education budgets unintentionally exacerbated funding inequities between lower- and higher-wealth school districts across the country.

Given these realities, now is an opportune time for policymakers to consider lessons learned from that period, as well as to consider what research says about how funding and resource allocation affect the academic achievement of the country’s most vulnerable student populations.

In this Policy Perspectives paper, authors Jason Willis and Sean Tanner suggest three key strategies intended to help ensure that cuts in education expenditures that result from any economic recession are fair and equitable. The strategies discussed in detail in the paper include

  • Applying a sliding-scale reduction to account for differential student needs.
  • Accounting for differences in districts’ abilities to raise revenue.
  • Considering the length of the economic recession, as well as the potential availability of funds from other sources, when enacting reductions.

For more information and guidance, visit our COVID-19 Resources page, and watch our archived webinar series, Effective Resource Management in Response to COVID-19.

Resource Details

Product Information

Copyright: 2020
Format: PDF
Pages: 6
Publisher: WestEd