April 9, 2009
Neither budget is acceptable
Both houses of the Legislature have presented budgets with steep cuts in education funding. The Senate would slash $887 million and the House $365 million from K-12 funding. Higher education would lose $683 million in the House and $513 in the Senate.Neither of these are viable options. Both seem like a smokescreen for a tax hike.
As everyone with any sort of soapbox seems to be pointing out these days, the state constitution says education is the paramount duty of the state. Let’s repeat that: paramount. Our understanding of the word paramount is that it should come first. Education must be funded and whatever is left can go to other areas.
This idea, that education should be the first priority, was embedded in the constitution when this chunk of land became a state. Voters have consistently reaffirmed it, most recently through ballot initiatives implementing teacher raises and smaller class sizes.
To cut education funding is to ignore the will of the people. No budget cut would be more regressive. And education is the first defense against the need for future social programs.
What we fear is that these proposed cuts are a pawn, part of a gambit that will lead to tax hikes. Legislators know that voters in this state value education. The people want their children to have fairly compensated teachers, and they don’t want them crammed into a class with 35 students.
So, let the idea of thousands of teachers losing their jobs sink in. Let school districts across the state explain to parents exactly what children will lose as a result of the cuts. Then, humbly suggest that a tax increase is the only solution. Bingo, you’ve got your tax hike!
We are not opposed to the concept of tax increases. What upsets us is the politics behind the proposed budget cuts.
The state may need a tax increase to help offset an unimaginable budget shortfall. Just don’t try to scare voters into a ‘yes’ vote with the specter of dire cuts to education.
Leave K-12 education alone and get busy finding other programs to trim.