Education slashed in House budget

The House Ways and Means Committee released its proposed FY04 budget April 23.  The proposal totals $22.5 billion -- $360 million less than the budget submitted by Gov. Mitt Romney.  The House budget, like the governor's budget, does not increase taxes, though both plans increase fees.  As a result of no significant revenue increase, the House budget makes deep cuts in public education in order to fill in the projected $3 billion shortfall. 

The MTA was successful in pressuring the House to not to include the governor's changes in collective bargaining or in how education is reorganized. However, the governor has made it quite clear that these issues are still his priorities and he will continue to push them as part of his legislative agenda.

Below is a brief summary of the impact of the House Ways and Means budget on public education and how the House debate will unfold.  More details will be posted here in the next several days.

K-12 Education and Local Aid

  • Chapter 70--education aid to cities, towns--cut by $150.8 million (a 5% overall cut).  At least 181districts are cut by 20% while others are cut by a smaller percentage and a few receive a slight increase as a result of keeping every district at its required "foundation" level.  This is the first time in a decade that Chapter 70 has not been increased.  When the estimated $75 million cost of maintaining current services is taken into account, the effective cut is almost $226 million.
  • Additional cuts to K-12 programs from FY03 levels include:

    • Elimination of $18 million for class size reductin
    • $10 million (21% cut) from Early Childhood Education.  (However, the House budget does return the Community Partnership for Children program to the Department of Education.)
    • $7.7 million (58% cut) from early literacy programs
    • Elimination of school transportation reimbursements, a 37% cut in regional transportation and requiring local districts to pick up the cost of transportation for non-public school children
    • Elimination of requirement that $125 per-pupil be spent on professional development
    • Elimination of funding for new school building projects
    • Reducing MCAS remediation program from $50 to $10 million (80% cut), despite the fact that the graduation requirement remains in place
    • Reducing funding for the full-day kindergarten grant program by $5 million (18% cut)
    • A 10% cut to METCO ($1.5 million)
    • Removes the $70 million trust fund that funds the Master Teacher program and re-directs the money to the uncompensated care pool and the stabilization fund

 

  • Increases funding for special education by funding the "circuit breaker"plan that assists communities with high special education costs
  • Restores $46 million for charter school reimbursements for districts where there are new or expanding charter schools
  • Cuts other local aid accounts by $187. 50% of this money goes to local public schools

Higher Education

  • Campus budgets cut $174 million from the original FY03 budget, on top of a 10% cut in the past two years.
  • Proposes increasing the cost of employees' health insurance premiums for all except lowest paid employees from current 15% to between 20% and 35% depending on salary
  • Repeals the Pacheco Law for the University of Massachusetts--allowing the University to more easily privatize certain services
  • Provides no funding for library materials
  • Reduces scholarship aid by $11 million
  • Provides $30 million to the Board of Higher Education to "reward" colleges and the University for making progress
  • Does not include the governor's reorganization plan
  • Does not include funding of outstanding higher education contracts

What's Next

The House will begin debate on the budget on April 30.  There first will be a debate on revenues.  It is unlikely that there will be any significant increase in taxes at that time.

Proposals to amend the House budget have to be submitted by Friday, April 25.  Several weeks ago the House adopted rules governing the budget debate and what kinds of amendments could be offered.  The House voted not to allow amendments to add money to the budget of more than $100,000 per program unless the money is taken from another program. 

MTA is working on amendment proposals and also is working with other unions and organizations to draft amendments that would be acceptable under the rules.  A listing of amendments that MTA is supporting will be posted on the web the beginning of next week.

What You Can Do?

Please send an e-mail to your representative letting them know that the House Ways and Means budget will harm the progress that has been made in the past decade and prevent students from receiving the education they need to be successful in the 21st century.