Some public school systems still financially secure

Students raise their hands in class

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Today is the first day of school in a lot of places around the country. Thanks to state budget cuts, kids are coming back to shorter school years, fewer teachers and no more art or music classes. But there are some exceptions.

As Marketplace's Amy Scott reports from the Education Desk at WYPR in Baltimore.


Children talking in a school hallway

Amy Scott: At a Baltimore elementary school, first graders file in in uniform. Unlike students at many schools opening around the country, these kids won't face drastic budget cuts.

Bill Reinhard: I don't think I've ever heard a school system say we have plenty of money don't send me any more, but...

Bill Reinhard is with the Maryland State Department of Education. He says the state has made barely any cuts to K through 12 education this year. Maryland's economy has held up fairly well during the recession. And state law requires that local districts spend at least as much this school year as they did last year.

Reinhard says that's helped place Maryland's among the top public schools systems in the country.

Reinhard: We certainly have great kids, we have great teachers, we have great administrators. But the money helps.

And Maryland is in line for more money, including $250 million from the Obama Administration's Race to the Top contest. Maryland isn't the only exception to state budget troubles.

Allen Odden teaches education policy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He says school budgets have held up in Wyoming and South Dakota, thanks to their thriving oil, gas and coal businesses. And he says Arkansas is doing well, too.

Allen Odden: It's a fairly mixed economy. They have insurance companies. They have Wal-Mart, they have Tyson Chicken.

Arkansas also has a law guaranteeing adequate school funding, but money doesn't guarantee success. Odden says as Wyoming has spent more on education, student performance has flattened or dropped.

In Baltimore, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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