Budget writers cut public schools


Idaho budget writers snatched $109 million from Idaho public schools Friday morning, backfilling some of the state cuts with some $40 million in federal stimulus money, but leaving teachers, principals and superintendents with a $69 million hole in the coming fiscal year.

It's the first time in history that the state has allocated less money for public schools than the prior year. The general fund cut amounts to 7.7 percent of the 2009 budget.

Though Democrats on the Legislature's budget panel opposed most of the cuts and the teachers' union said members were dismayed and saddened by the proposed 2010 budget, there has been little public outcry over it.

"This year has been a very very different year…" Idaho Education Association President Sherri Wood told citydesk. "Our members, educators out there across, the state understand that we are in a different circumstance than we’ve ever been in before."

To that end, IEA members have been walking around with band-aids on for a week, rather than marching on the temporary statehouse in Boise.

“To say we’re going to rally over this budget, it’s just very difficult to do,” Wood said.

The IEA will hold a mock JFAC meeting next Wednesday, April 1, at 6:30 p.m. at Boise High School to provide a public forum on the K-12 budget. JFAC does not take public testimony at its meetings.

Boise Democratic Sen. Nicole LeFavour said at the meeting and reiterated just now on the phone to citydesk, that there was money to keep public schools whole but that some legislators do not necessarily like public schools.

“We have so radically underfunded education for so long that when you cut this much things fall apart,” LeFavour said, as she attempted to compose her own blog entry about the day.

Idaho schools chief Tom Luna released the following statement, after stumbling over the words at a press conference: 
"No one wants to cut education, least of all me. Unfortunately in these unprecedented economic times, the members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee had to make the tough decision to cut public education. While I am not happy that we had to cut public education, I am relieved JFAC made every effort to minimize the cuts to education as much as possible."