Health care is the budget buster at the federal level, but K-12 education is what’s poised to bankrupt state and local governments. Spending on public education eats up around half of the general budget in most states, and it’s by far the priciest single item. For every dollar raised by state and local governments for Medicaid, three dollars go to K-12 schooling. As a result, combined state budget gaps in the high tens of billions of dollars are predicted through at least 2012.
That’s the immediate problem. Just over the horizon, things look worse. State public-employee pension systems are facing a trillion-dollar shortfall in their commitments, driven in large part by the massive costs of public-school employee benefits.
So exactly how bad is the education spending crisis? Is there anything we can do to avoid huge state and local tax increases or a serious decline in the breadth and quality of educational services?
Join us for a discussion of the most important state and local spending issue of 2011 … and many years to come.