8 Budget Cuts Kids Face as They Head Back to School

What will shrinking resources mean for your children?

Even after protest, cuts are here—and they're not good. (Photo: infomatique/Creative Commons via Flickr)

Thanks to the Great Recession, schools are still in the midst of an era of austerity. District budgets continue to shrink, and principals struggle to do more with less.

This year, as federal stimulus dollars run out, many schools can no longer afford to shield students from bearing the brunt of their cutbacks. 

Here’s a list of six cost-cutting measures families should brace themselves for as kids head back to school:

1. SHORTER SCHOOL WEEK: While the merits of extended learning time continue to be debated, some schools are heading in the opposite direction.

At least 120 school districts across 20 states will lop off 20 percent of instructional time, leaving students with a four-day week.

2. LARGER CLASS SIZES: According to a national survey of school superintendents, more than 100,000 public school teachers were laid off for the upcoming year.

Fewer teachers means higher class sizes, and the increases range from slight to dramatic. For instance, educators in Huntsville, Alabama, returned to high school last month to find their classes overflowing with 40 to 50 kids.

Fewer teachers means higher class sizes, and the increases range from slight to dramatic.

3. HIGHER SCHOOL FEES: The days of public schools offering a free education for all are over. Schools nationwide are beginning to collect fees for everything from AP classes to sports.

High schools in several states charge families more than $200 per child for registration, technology and unspecified “instructional fees,” plus an additional $50 in supply fees per class. 

One school district in central Pennsylvania is imposing a $250 fee per sport for student athletes. Another in Colorado is asking students to swipe a card every time they board the school bus so parents can be billed $1 per ride. 

4. FEWER EXTRACURRICULARS: Afterschool clubs and activities add value to children’s academic experiences, whether through tutoring and homework programs, chess clubs, athletics, or the arts.

Expect the list of offerings to shrink this year as principals don’t have enough funding or staff to run the programs.

5. MISSING SUPPORT STAFF: Schools aides and support staff play an unheralded but significant role in the running of schools.  This year, many campuses had to let go of personnel they couldn’t afford to keep. 

One high school in Queens reduced its number of aides by half, while others reported laying off math and literacy coaches whose job was to help teachers develop curriculum.

6. PRINCIPALS IN THE CLASSROOM: Like Eric Blake, a high school principal in Brooklyn, school administrators will compensate for the loss of teachers by stepping back into the classroom.

Some schools will play musical chairs with their staff, moving a substantial number into different positions to fill new vacancies.

7. CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP:  When businesses offer substantial amounts of money to schools in exchange for advertising, many campuses find it increasingly difficult to refuse.

In Tacoma, Washington, schools are spending $400,000 to build video scoreboards in hopes of generating over $100,000 per year in advertising revenues.

8. FEWER COLLEGE MAJORS: While reports on the impact of education cutbacks tend to focus on K-12 funding, college students are not immune from feeling the pinch. 

In addition to higher tuition rates, incoming students at public colleges in states like Missouri, Arizona and North Carolina will have fewer courses to choose from. Dozens of low-producing majors and programs were recently eliminated.

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