Download The Full Report | Hidden Education Funding Cuts: Methodology

The Hidden Education Funding Cuts project examines the extent to which teacher pension costs have reduced the dollars available for K–12 education purposes as provided by state budgets. We chose to examine education funding from a state budgeting perspective to highlight how the funds lawmakers allocate for teachers and classrooms are being impacted by rising pension debt costs.

This document contains the key methodological notes for our research project. The following pages are drawn from our report looking at the national trends in hidden education funding cuts. For any further questions about data sources, data utilization, or data methods, please contact the authors Jonathan Moody and Anthony Randazzo.

As an overview: we use state expenditure data from the National Association of State Budget Officers that exclude both federal and local funding for education. These data are self-reported by state budget officials which allows for the examination and comparison of state trends over-time, regardless of how a specific state funds its primary and secondary schools (e.g., whether they use the general fund or other state funds).

We also use teacher pension employer contribution data, that include both dollars provided by “local” employers (such as school districts or non-state participating employers) and dollars provided by the state budget as a non-employer contributor as reported by the teacher retirement systems. This approach ensures that we are reflecting the most accurate figures related to the retirement system and its associated costs. We have also adjusted pension contribution data to remove outsized single payments that come from the issuance of pension obligation bonds or other supplemental appropriations, as those would not be an accurate representation of state dollars spent on pension costs that could have otherwise been used for education funding.