• $926 million — Cancel the Initiative 728 money, or most of it. Officially this is for class-size reduction in the public schools, but the schools have folded it into everyday operations. Cutting I-728 money was done in 2003, when the budget was in a crisis, and has to be done again. That is the danger of budgeting by initiative.
“That is the danger of budgeting by intiative.” Cutting taxes by initiative, apparently, the Times has no problem with that, but spending money, well that’s a no-no… despite the fact that taxing and spending are both part of the budget process. But again, that’s not my concern for the moment.
No, I just wanted to point out that a $926 million cut comes to over $900 per K-12 student over the course of the biennium, or roughly $450 per student per year. For a typical elementary school with about 400 kids, that’s about $180,000 out of the annual budget. How many teachers will need to be cut? Do they increase class size for all the kids, or do they eliminate art or music or gym or reading tutors… assuming they have any of these left to cut?
And don’t think local school districts can make up these cuts by raising local levies. In fact, some districts may have to reduce their local levies in response, as state law limits the amount of money raised from local levies to a fixed percentage of the district’s total state and federal funding.
The Times argues that this money was cut before and “has to be done again,” because raising taxes—any taxes—simply isn’t an option. No doubt tough choices have to be made to respond to these tough economic times, but raising taxes is an awfully tough choice too, and it just doesn’t make sense to automatically eliminate one half of the budget equation when something as important as our children’s education is at risk.