Today, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved a committee recommendation that, in effect, cuts public education spending by some $64 million.
That's not how board members explained the vote, which was described as a "standstill budget." But if an anticipated increase is rejected, that is a cut. The traditional 2.75% increase in public education's Minimum Foundation Program was sliced from the budget. School boards will have to adjust their budgets downward for the coming year. It is a reduction in a budget that wasn't big enough to begin with.
As LFT President Steve Monaghan explained in his comments to the board, "Everyone seems to agree that we want a ‘world class’ education system. But there also seems to be little commitment to define that dream and then align it with the necessary revenues.”
State officials are quick to point at the national economic meltdown as the reason for drastic reductions in spending, at both the K-12 and higher education levels. But as Monaghan said, our governor and legislature bear at least some of the blame.
“Last year, the legislature approved hundreds of millions of dollars in tax givebacks,” he said. “There are already a number of bills filed for the coming session that will further erode our revenue base. Our problems were not all caused by a national crisis. We partly brought them on ourselves with tax cuts.”
There was no response when Monaghan asked BESE members to help stanch the tax cut bloodletting:
“Can’t we resist those who suggest we remove more and more revenues during this crisis,” he asked. “Can we have a cooperative agreement to fight those forces working to further constrict funding for our schools?”
Associated Press reporter Melinda DesLatte filed this report after the BESE meeting.