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Austerity has been the biggest impediment to the advancement of education on all levels in the United States, according to the latest data in a report from the American Federation of Teachers.

Expand chart
K-12 data: Census Bureau; Higher ed. data: 2017 SHEF Report, State Higher Education Executive Officers; Note: Inflation adjusted; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The state of play: Many states were able to work their way out of the recession due to a stimulus package commissioned by the Obama administration and a $145 billion relief appropriation from congress to states, with school districts receiving $80 billion for relief.

  • That funding ran dry in 2011, the study says, and states never adjusted their tax rates to maintain a steady stream of revenue for their school districts.

The big picture: Per the report, 25 states having spent less on education in 2016 than they did in 2008 when the economy sunk into a recession. There were 41 states that funded higher education institutions less-so in 2016 than they did in 2008.

By the numbers: Education has lost billions in state funding behind tax cuts — particularly in Republican states, according to the study.

  • A decade after the great recession, K-12 schools are still underfunded as a result of $19 billion in state tax cuts.
  • Higher education took a big hit as well, falling behind by $15 billion after the recession.
  • Tuition for two-year degrees in 2017 rose at three times the rate of inflation compared to 2008. Four-year college degrees continued to rise in cost as well.
  • Of the 25 states that have fallen behind in K-12 education funding, 18 are taxing their residents less since the recession.

Teacher pay has also fallen in 38 states since 2010, which has been at the center of the teacher strikes from around the nation.

Expand chart
Data: National Center for Education Statistics, The Council for Community and Economic Research; Note: Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, adjusted for inflation; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

What they're saying: Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said elected officials — many of whom are Republicans — are responsible.

"When legislators choose to prioritize millionaires over children, our country suffers."
— Weingarten

Go deeper

Focus group: Red flags for Biden infrastructure plan

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Some swing voters say President Biden needs to better explain who'll pay for his $2 trillion infrastructure plan — and they'll only back bipartisan legislation that's paid for by corporations, not the middle class.

Why it matters: These takeaways from our latest Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups offer crucial context for an administration basing much of its legislative strategy on polls showing Americans notionally favor spending on roads, bridges, job training and broadband access.

Polish leader says U.S. must show democracy's resilience

Radosław Sikorski. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Donald Trump's tumultuous presidency and the Jan. 6 Capitol assault are signals that people are “less enamored” by democracy, a former Polish foreign minister who has the ear of the White House and Congress tells Axios.

Why it matters: Radosław Sikorski, currently a member of the European Parliament, said it’s critical that democratic countries like the U.S. now showcase their resilience to the world.

Veiled attacks rile Virginia governor's race

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new political group in Virginia is taking pains to keep the people behind it a secret. And one candidate in the state's gubernatorial race claims it is buying ads designed to falsely make it look like they're coming from him.

Why it matters: The group, dubbed the Patriot Leadership Trust, has succeeded in hiding the identities of its principals, depriving Virginians of information about the people and interests seeking to sway their votes in a bellwether off-year race.

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