Money Minute: School Funding Drops After Decadeslong Rise

Funding for public schools drops for the first time in decades.

The Census Bureau says school funding for 2012, the latest year for which we have numbers, was the first decline since the government began keeping track in 1977. That was due entirely to a big decline in federal dollars as the government cut the extra stimulus provided during the recession, and states weren't able to make up the difference. In total, public school funding fell by $4.9 billion from the previous year, a drop of nearly 1 percent.

A new report could change the debate over the impact of foreign workers on wages paid to American workers. The Wall Street Journal reports on a new academic study that shows cities with the most foreign workers in the so-called STEM fields -- science, technology, engineering and math -- also had the fastest wage gains for U.S.-born college grads. The researchers said a one percentage point increase in foreign STEM workers led to 7 to 8 percent increase in wages for comparable American workers.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%No matter where they were born, workers at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) are worried about their jobs. The company plans to cut up to 16,000 more jobs. That's on top of 34,000 job cuts previously announced.

Here on Wall Street on Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) added 10 points, the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) gained 22 points and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) rose 4.

If you're heading out for the Memorial Day weekend, expect lots of company on the roads and at the airport. AAA says more people will be traveling than at any time since 2005. There is some good news though: the price of gasoline is about the same as it was a year ago.

Lastly, the Speedway chain of gas stations is expanding. Marathon Petroleum (MPC) is buying the Hess (HES) chain for $2.6 billion. That means Speedway will have 2,700 locations in 23 states, up from nine currently. But don't fear, the new owners plan to keep offering the popular Hess toy truck that it's sold during the holidays for the past 50 years.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.

10 Easy Ways to Pay Off Debt
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Money Minute: School Funding Drops After Decadeslong Rise
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of "Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month." Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much? 
Remove all credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don't need. So clear that information. "If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account," Hamm writes.  
Reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. "The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated," Bakke writes. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. "If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months," Bakke writes, "give yourself more than a pat on the back." 
“Establish a budget,” writes Money Crashers contributor David Bakke. “If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole." You can use personal finance tools like, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs.    
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. "By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards," writes spokeswoman Hitha Prabhakar.
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. "Paying the minimum -– usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance -– only prolongs a debt payoff strategy," Prabhakar writes. "Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments." Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more. 
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Hamm recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. "You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate," he warns. "If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way."
Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. "Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price," Karimi writes. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible." Any profits from sales should go toward your debt. 
If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. "Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase," Karimi writes. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.
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