Sunday, May 29, 2011

Future budget impacts . . .

I had two comments to my post on the state budget; one stating that district staff should not be asked to do the same amount of work with less pay and the second thanking me for the post and sharing concern for the future. 

I worry that these issues will only be compounded in the coming years and am unsure how to successfully advocate for our students and profession.

I share Angela's worries as we look at a biennial budget with significant cuts to what we believe to be "basic education" and to staffing levels that beyond next year will be extremely difficult to maintain.  For next year, we are looking at using the projected fund balance to continue K-4 staffing levels that keep class size similar to this year.  In the absence of unanticipated revenue next year, the fund balance will not be able to maintain these staffing levels beyond that.  That means program changes will be necessary if we choose to prioritize K-4 class sizes.

We have difficult decisions in front of us that could become more difficult if the state economy does not improve.  Without an economic recovery legislators will once again need to look for savings, a situation that is difficult to predict and uncomfortable to consider.  The one arena that could help public education is the state supreme court review this June of the state's appeal to the NEWS lawsuit where the judge said that “state funding [for basic education] is not ample, it is not stable, and it is not dependable.” 

This year's cuts would suggest that it continues to be far from stable and dependable.  It is unfortunate that we must rely on the courts to secure stable funding and that to achieve it may result in deeper cuts to other services.  The budget cuts, however, leave us with few choices and the need for continued advocacy on behalf of our students.  Unfortunately, without increased state revenue there is little that advocacy will accomplish leaving legislators with few alternatives and our best hopes in the hand of the courts. 

I don't enjoy being in the position of needing to advocate knowing that maintaining or increasing public school funding will result in severe cuts to other state services, but we cannot continue our journey to achieve success for all students with cuts to our primary funding source, the state.  Something must change and for us the best change will be economic recovery.  It will be faster than court cases and result in less disruption to other services across the state.  I guess there is an alternative and that would be raising taxes, but that doesn't appear likely given the public response to tax increases.  So, we move forward given what we know and wait and see if state revenue becomes more stable.

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