Public Schools Need More Federal Funds, Despite Yearly Increases, Union Chief Says

By Penny Starr | January 15, 2009 | 6:12 PM EST

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the nation's public school should get some of the money from the economic stimulus package. (Photo: Penny Starr/

( – The nation’s public schools should be included in the economic stimulus package being crafted by Congress and the incoming Obama administration because state and local governments lack funds and are proposing to cut staff and programs, a teachers’ union official said.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told this week that the Bush administration’s failed education policies and the budget cuts that local governments face mean that states need the federal government to pick up the tab.
“What’s happening now is that you’re seeing these schools facing these huge cutbacks in funding,” Weingarten said. “No Child Left Behind when it was first announced it was a promise to funding, particularly for the kids who are in the most challenging positions, and those promises never materialized, not nearly to the degree it was supposed to be funded, by billions and billions of dollars.”
Spending on public school education, however, has gone up every year even if the funding increase for the No Child Left Behind program was not as high as Weingarten alluded to.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the amount of spending per pupil in public schools – local, state and federal -- has more than doubled in the last 30 years, with $4,721 spent in 1967-68 and $11,470 spent per pupil in 2004-05 (adjusted to reflect the 2006-07 U.S. dollar).
The total expenditure for public schools (local, state and federal) has increased even more dramatically. In 1967-68, $31.9 billion was spent on public schools, and in 2004-05 the number was  $487 billion.
The federal funds – not counting local and state money -- given to public schools rose from $2.8 billion contributed in 1967-68 to $44.8 billion in 2004-05, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Nonetheless, Weingarten said that public schools should receive funds from the economic stimulus package, which is reportedly estimated to cost between $750 billion and $1.2 trillion.
“We’re not simply talking about money to build and repair schools, as important as that is, and it is important -- we’re talking about direct aid to school districts to avert these cuts,” Weingarten said.