Proposed cuts from House, Senate would hit education hard

OK. I’m gonna write about the schools now. Since being elected to the School Committee, I’ve had some people suggest to me that, as a School Committee member, I shouldn’t be blogging anymore – especially not about school matters.  That’s not going to happen, but I do want to clarify that this blog continues to be a community forum in which my ideas, as well as those of other Belmont residents, are put forward and discussed, openly. Before I do that, though, allow me to put a huge, boldface ALLCAPS caveat around everything that I’m about to write and say that THESE ARE MY OPINIONS AND MY OPINIONS ONLY AND DO NOT REFLECT THE OPINIONS, THOUGHTS OR POSITIONS OF THE BELMONT SCHOOL COMMITTEE, ITS MEMBERS OR THE BELMONT PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN ANY WAY!!

In short, this is Paul talking here.

OK, now that that’s over with, I wanted to thank our School Committee Chairwoman Anne Rittenburg for sending along a link to a pretty cogent analysis by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center of the impact of the state revenue shortfall and the cuts that are being proposed by Beacon Hill lawmakers in response. The analysis looks at the impact of proposed cuts in a variety of areas, education being just one. It provides a nice overview of how bleak the news from Beacon Hill is, and how bad things might get without a strong effort to include new revenues in any effort to plug the hole in the state’s finances. Here are some (though by no means all) noted cuts that could impact Belmont:

  • A cut of $79 million in Chapt. 70 local aid — a 2 percent reduction in state aid to each school district. The Mass Budget and Policy Center also notes that the Senate Ways and Means Committee is using a lower inflation figure to arrive at foundation budgets for school districts (3.04% vs. the 4.5% figure used by the House and the Governor). THis “saves” money, but also runs the risk of underestimating actual inflation, which could leave the state (and districts) caught short.
  • Cuts to special education reimbursements to school districts that total $124.9 million compared with FY 2009 level. This will reduce the amount of state reimbursements districts receive for extraordinary special education costs, though federal IDEA grants may offset some of that.
  • Cuts funding for the state’s Universal Pre-School program by $8.1 million from the FY 2009 levels. This money helps offset the costs of moving to full day kindergarten. As it stands, the Senate and House are far apart on this, with the Senate Ways and Means proposing a $4 millionand the House proposing a $9.8 million appropriation.
  • Takes $61m out of the state’s School Building Assistance program, an almost 10% reduction.

Fortunately, there’s still time to lobby our representatives in Beacon Hill to push for revenue increases (sales tax, liquor tax and gas/carbon tax have all been proposed) so that drastic cuts in education programs are not necessary. You can find contact information for our state senator, Steve Tolman, here.  Our representative, Will Brownsberger, can be contacted by following this link.