Andrea Gabor spells out what many educators and parents fear: the collapse of state revenues will endanger our most vulnerable children. After 20 years of pouring billions into testing and consultants, let’s see how many “reformers” demand smaller classes and insist on protecting school funding.

How many state leaders will have the will and the courage to protect the children?

She begins:

The New York State budget recently signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered a one-two punch to public schools. It wiped out the benefits of $716.9 million in federal stimulus aid and hit poor school districts hardest.

New York’s double-whammy could be replayed in states nationwide as the coronavirus pandemic devastates state and local finances. In Massachusetts, business groups are recommending that the state delay meeting the obligations of last year’s ground-breaking school-funding law, which called for $1.5 billion in extra spending over seven years, much of it for poor districts. And this week, when California is expected to release a revised version of the state budget, schools could see as much as 15 percent, or $1,700 per student, slashed in 2020-2021 — more than the worst year of the Great Recession.

It might seem unreasonable to focus on school-financing inequities in the middle of the pandemic, which is crushing economic activity across the board and pulverizing government budgets. However, lessons from the 2008 recession suggest that unless states start planning soon both for extra education funding and a more equal distribution of the money, the damage to poor districts will be long-lasting.

That’s why states should resist the temptation to follow New York’s lead. Cuomo’s cuts shredded the part of the budget that provides extra funding to districts with comparatively low tax bases. Thus, poor New York districts will receive, on average, $230 less per student than they would have gotten under January’s budget proposal, compared to $30 less per student in affluent districts — even taking into account the federal stimulus — according to an analysis for Chalkbeat by Drew Atchison, an education economist.

Instead, states should lessen the damage to the poorest districts, which suffered the brunt of Great Recession cuts. In 2008, high-poverty districts lost more than three times the $500-per-pupil funding loss of affluent districts. Test scores and graduation rates suffered. Although school funding increased after recent nationwide teacher protests, at least a dozen states still fund schools well below pre-2008 levels.

With state and local tax revenues, which account for most education spending, expected to fall sharply, the federal government will have to play a much larger role in supplementing education budgets. That means that Education Secretary Betsy Devos should shelve her plan to finance pet programs of dubious value, like vouchers and virtual schools, with the $13.5 billion school-aid package passed by Congress in the wake of the pandemic.

Future federal aid should require states to protect funding for the poorest districts, which can make a huge difference to disadvantaged students.

I hope the rest of the article is not behind a pay wall. You should read it in full, along with the kinks to sources.