How Do Schools Respond to Budget Cuts? Evidence from Kansas and Oklahoma

Emily Rauscher, Brown University
Danny Alvord, University of Kansas

Kansas and Oklahoma cut public education funding drastically during the great recession. Unlike most states, which increased education funding once the economy recovered, these states further reduced funding through 2018. Specifically, per pupil state general funding in 2018 was 10% and 28% below 2008 values in Kansas and Oklahoma, respectively. We conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with 25 superintendents and chief financial officers from a stratified sample of school districts in Kansas and Oklahoma to learn how districts responded to state funding cuts. We find that districts face multiple tensions – from staff, community, legislators, and voters – in deciding where and how to make cuts. Drawing on the concept of relational accounting, we analyze the choices districts make when funding is cut. We argue that school districts employ a relational logic when faced with decreasing revenue. These relationship efforts focus on adults and, despite district efforts to shield the classroom, decisions made during budget cuts can be detrimental to children and families.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 208. Fighting for Access, Equity, and Funding: American Public Schools and Fiscal Policy