Sadly, it appears that the numbers in the governor's budget do not fulfill the words he uses in his speeches. On the one hand, he emphasizes the vital importance of public education to the health of the Commonwealth. On the other, he presents a budget that represents a continued under-investment in our students and our state's economic future.
Where the public schools are concerned, we remain well below the level of spending in Fiscal Year 2002, when inflation is taken into account. Students continue to learn in classes that are too large, programs such as art and music have not recovered from the cuts of recent years, and families are paying an ever increasing amount in fees for basic educational services. Almost two-thirds of Massachusetts school districts have yet to recover from cuts to their Chapter 70 aid -- many as high as 20 percent -- made in FY04.
Governor Romney's modest increases for public higher education do little to restore the 20 percent cuts, amounting to $222 million, made to our campuses between FY2001 and FY2004 cuts still being felt by students at our community colleges, state colleges and the University of Massachusetts.
Although the governor's budget adds $64.5 million to the state employee healthcare account, he underfunds the account, forcing increases in employee contributions. This underfunding would cause all state employees to pay 25 percent of their health insurance premiums.
Also troubling is the governor's persistence in calling for a tax cut in the face of a continuing structural state deficit. His proposed cut would remove an additional $450 million annually from state revenues. This is unwise at a time when such essential programs as MCAS tutoring, early childhood education, early literacy, full-day kindergarten and after-school programs remain severely underfunded, significantly below their FY2002 levels, and other programs, such as class size reduction and school transportation, remain unfunded.
Many of these programs were highlighted in Superior Court Judge Margot Botsford's findings concerning the Hancock v. Driscoll case, and they deserve the governor's support.