Monday, March 16, 2009

Financial crisis hits school districts hard, especially in those funded by property taxes

Greg Toppo and Jack Gillum have an important front page story in USA Today, March 16, 2009, “Tide turns against schools as home foreclosures rise: with tax-base slipping, districts face deep cuts”, link here. The online and print versions have a social studies “map exercise” showing the relationship between school district budgets and property taxes in the 50 states, followed by the article. In states with heavy dependence in property taxes and with heavy foreclosures, school districts are in serious trouble with employee and teacher layoffs.

Even in relatively less scathed districts, like Fairfax County VA, there have been severe budget cuts, reduction in some programs, and hiring freezes.

In one school district in Florida, high school kids raise fish to sell to raise money for the school, using a science lab and aquarium built during the real estate bubble.

The economic crisis threatens the ability to hire teachers in the future when the economy recovers, as college students and career-switching adults will be less willing to invest money in certification. This is a serious problem, worthy of addressing as part of the “economic stimulus.”

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