The Great Recession and Public Education

William Evans, University of Notre Dame
Robert Schwab, University of Maryland
Kathryn L. Wagner, Marquette University
Publication Date:
May 2019
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

The authors examine the impact of the Great Recession on public education finance and employment. Five major themes emerge from this work. First, nearly 300,000 school employees lost their jobs. Second, schools that were heavily dependent financially on state governments were particularly vulnerable to the recession. Third, local revenues from the property tax actually increased during the recession, primarily because millage rates rose in response to declining property values. Fourth, inequality in school spending rose sharply during the Great Recession. The authors argue, however, that we need to be very cautious about this result. School spending inequality has risen steadily since 2000; the trend in inequality in the 2008–13 period is very similar to the trend in the 2000–08 period. Fifth, the federal government's efforts to shield education from some of the worst effects of the recession achieved their major goal.


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