Evaluating the recession’s impact on state school finance systems
Keywords:school funding, fiscal stabilization, recession, poverty, equity
The Great Recession’s effect on state school finance systems was unlike previous downturns in the early 1990s and early 2000s in that it a) involved a greater loss of taxable income in many states, thus greater loss to state general fund revenues, b) also involved a substantial collapse of housing markets and related reduction or at least leveling of growth of taxable property wealth, c) but also involved a substantive infusion of federal “fiscal stabilization” aid to be used to fill holes in state general aid formulas. The goal of this study is to evaluate the effects of the recession on equity of state school funding systems with respect to child poverty concentrations. Using school district level panel data from 1993 to 2011, we evaluate the interplay between local, state and federal source revenues through the course of the recent recession by comparison with the less severe economic downturn of the early 2000s. Then using state level estimates of elasticities between revenue and spending measures and district poverty rates, we estimate whether changes in the distribution of state, local or federal revenue contribute most to changes in overall equity of current spending and whether those contributions changed during the recent recession.