By Hannah Goldstein
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Judging by the budgets and bills being proposed by governors and state legislatures, austere conditions will remain in many public schools for the foreseeable future.
We already covered bad budget proposals in Missouri, Nevada, and Maryland, whose governors are prepared to ask educators and students to absorb funding cuts. Sadly, New Mexico, Arizona and Maine—all of which spend less per pupil than they did in 2008, when adjusting for inflation—are also set to short their public schools.
Governor Susana Martinez has broken her pledge to invest more in schools. Her FY 2016 budget proposed $68 million in new public education spending to fund an “At Risk” component of the State Equalization Guarantee, recruitment of quality teachers, a teacher mentoring program, and a teacher pay increase. But Gov. Martinez recently signed three bills that balance the state’s budget by cutting $46 million from the reserves of public schools. Santa Fe Public Schools alone will lose $1.9 million in cash reserves.
Meanwhile, Martinez is sticking to her “no new taxes” and “no tax hikes” promises, allowing children to pay the price for the resulting budget deficits.
Arizona has cut over $1 billion from education funding every year since 2008. The state has consistently been at or near the bottom in per-student funding and teacher salaries, leading to drastic teacher shortages and exploding class sizes.
Gov. Ducey’s 2018-19 budget proposal would actually mitigate some of the damage with greater investment in both K-12 schools and higher education. The Arizona Education Association’s analysis concludes that although it’s a step in the right direction, the state could do much more if it quit investing in needless corporate tax breaks and school voucher schemes that divert taxpayer money to private schools.
Meanwhile, a bill in the state legislature puts at risk $211 million used desegregate schools and boost students achievement in 19 districts.
In November, Maine voters approved a ballot measure that restores tax fairness and increases revenue for schools by instituting a 3 percent surcharge to taxable income above $200,000. The revenue is dedicated only for K-12 resources and services that directly benefit students. Incredibly, Gov. Paul LePage seems intent on undoing voters’ will with his final biennial budget, which gives tax cuts for large corporations and the wealthy and cuts public school funding. Comparing per pupil spending with three neighboring states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont) Maine is recorded as having the lowest per pupil spending of the 2012-2013 school year.
Maine funds education at the same level as seven years ago, despite the fact that the cost of education has increased about 1.6% each year. The state is over a billion in debt to the local school districts, yet LePage wrongly stated that adding $23 million more in state funding for 2016-17 ‘would be a windfall for runaway state education spending.’”