Talon News - Good Local News

By Kirk Carpenter
Aztec Municipal Schools 

COMPROMISE MUST COME NOW

State Budget Cuts

 

March 17, 2017



As the legislative session gets into the critical stages, it goes without saying that we are in very tough economic times. In fact they are the worst I have seen in my 27 years as a public educator. This does not dismiss the fact that public schools in our state are not sufficiently funded, and to continue to cut public education will just exacerbate this situation. As I started this article it was being suggested that public education may face up to a 5% cut. Let me just say that this would be devastating. We have written letters to legislators and the Governor asking her to consider tax reform, revenue enhancements, and other ideas to save us from more detrimental cuts to education. This year alone in our district we have lost over $900,000 in funding. This does not include another one million that we spent out of our operational budget to offset shortfalls in federal programs, special education, transportation, as well as funding to support our after school program and other programs that are not funded sufficiently. More cuts mean less education to our kids in this state, and in my opinion, we are doing nothing less than balancing a part of the budget on the backs of our students if we make more cuts.

Fortunately for us the Senate and the House have both passed initial budgets that do not have cuts for education. I am confident that the Governor will make the right decision and not choose to make significant changes to the budget that will result in changes to the education portion of the state budget. Over the last several years we have continued to make cuts because of rising costs and funding remaining flat. To think that classrooms are not feeling the cuts we have already had is far from the truth and any more cuts, at any level, will devastate our schools and schools across the state.

If the revenue enhancements and tax reform packages, presented by the House and Senate, that are a part of the overall budget plan, are not accepted by the Governor, our district stands to lose an estimated $1,050,000, and that equates to seventeen teaching positions. There is no way that we could, or would cut that many teachers, but because we have continually made cuts away from the classroom over that past several years, we are at the point where we would have to cut instructional staff in order to make our budget balance in the upcoming school year. The scenario below is not a viable plan, because it is not good for kids and would change the face of our district. But if there is a 5% cut we would be left with very few options. A possible scenario for our district:

• Reduce instructional and other staff by 13 - Would increase class sizes across the district in selected grade levels. This is not even possible, but we are left with no other options. We cannot cut our costs in other areas. Savings: $806,000.

• Two less contract school days - Means less overall instructional time for students. Teachers would have a cut in salaries by two days. Savings: $132,000.

• Four less contract days for all employees - With the exception of teachers and instructional staff, who will only be reduced by one additional contract day, all remaining staff would have their contracts reduced by four days. This means we will need flexibility at the minimum salaries for teachers. Savings: $113,000.

This is one scenario that could be considered if a comprehensive tax plan is not considered by the Governor. Other considerations to reduce spending would have to be looked at including athletics, activities, and all other programs in our district. We will always do all we can to keep cuts away from the classroom. Again, hopefully none of this will have to be done, but only time will tell and nothing is final until the Governor signs the bill.

Our Legislators have done a tremendous job to put a budget forward with no cuts to education; we can only hope that the Governor will sign off on a favorable one as well. The students of today are our future of tomorrow and it is our moral imperative to ensure that we provide for them now with an equitable education.

 

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