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Educators: Why Rush Public Schools Budget Cuts?

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January 30, 2009

Boise, ID – Less money for textbooks, no money for field trips, millions less for maintenance and a reduction of all school personnel salaries. Those are some of the cuts on the table from Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Luna. He's proposing $79 million less for public schools as Idaho struggles to balance its budget.

Idaho Education Association President Sherri Wood, a teacher with more than 30 years of experience, had this reaction to Luna's proposal.

"It made me feel very sad about how long it will take us to recover, and what it will do to our children in this state."

While Idaho's budget is tight, Wood points out that one possibility is missing from the budget discussions so far: how much money will come to the Gem State for public schools in the Congressional economic stimulus package. The U.S. House-passed version of that bill outlines more than $145 million for Idaho.

The federal package of economic recovery funds could make it through Congress and to the president's desk by the end of February, although opponents claim it costs too much and may spark inflation. Until a final decision is made, however, Wood believes there's no need for Idaho to rush into budget cuts for education.

"We have time. There will be money coming through the stimulus package to help us. We'd like to just hold off a few weeks to see what that looks like."

Superintendent Luna is also requesting $15 million from the education stabilization fund, a "rainy day" account, to lessen the impact of the cuts. The legislature's Joint Finance Appropriations Committee will review Luna's proposals.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - ID