March 9th, 2010
12:06 PM ET

Recession forcing school closings?

Facing a $50 million shortfall, the Kansas City, Missouri, School Board is considering a plan to close nearly half of that city's public schools.

Superintendent John Covington wants to close 29 of 61 schools and eliminate 3,000 jobs, including the jobs of 285 teachers. The school board is scheduled to vote on Wednesday.

Fact Check: Is the recession forcing public schools to close?

– Most public school funding is generated at the state and local levels. The American Association of School Administrators says 80 percent of school revenues come from property taxes, down sharply because of the recession. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says 29 states and the District of Columbia have reduced funding for elementary and secondary education since 2008. The federal government stepped in to help last year with $100 billion in stimulus funding. AASA President Mark Bielang say the stimulus funds have helped, "but not as much as hoped."

– The U.S. Department of Education has no information on how many public schools have closed because of the recession. According to an AASA survey, 6 percent of school districts closed or consolidated schools during the 2008-2009 school year, double the rate of the previous year. Another 11 percent are considering school closings or consolidations in 2010-2011. But the same survey says school districts facing budget shortfalls are more likely to cut jobs, increase class sizes, eliminate programs, defer maintenance or cancel school bus routes. AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech calls the number of proposed Kansas City school closings "incredibly large," and adds, "I have not heard of a reduction of that size anywhere else."

– Henry Duvall of the Council of Great American Schools calls the Kansas City situation an aberration caused by enrollment declines. Kansas City school enrollment has dropped from a peak of 75,000 in the 1970s to less than 18,000 this year. Kansas City School Superintendent John Covington told CNN, "We have far more schools than we need, based on enrollment."

– Paul E. Peterson, director of Harvard University's Program on Education Policy and Governance, tells CNN that school boards normally try to avoid closing schools because parents complain. As a result, he says, "We have many more school buildings than are needed."

Bottom Line:

School funding is down because of the recession, and school districts are making cutbacks as a result. A $50 million shortfall was a factor in Kansas City's decision to consider some long-overdue downsizing, but the situation in Kansas City is not typical. Across the country, school closings are up, but still relatively rare.
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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. fanhead

    It does not make any sense, first where did the $100 billion stimulus went plus why is it the children have to suffer because of the greed of the grown up and why is the government not helping, instead of giving those companies the bailout you should be helping the schools system.

    March 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Murphy

    The money was used to plug gaps in revenue shortfalls. Now the money is gone and the gaps are still present. We need to fix the school funding issue because the property tax model doesn't work. There is too much disparity between districts that are adjacent and often in the same county.

    March 15, 2010 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. Emily Williams

    Our home business was really affected by the Economic recession, we have to cut jobs just to cover up our losses. fortunately, we have already recovered. "

    April 28, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |