The president of the 97,000-member Massachusetts Teachers Association issued a statement opposing the budget passed by the House of Representatives, calling it a plan that is bad for the students of the Commonwealth.
"This budget will turn back the clock on many improvements in our education system," said MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau. "We urge the Senate to do more for public education, and we are calling on both branches to approve a responsible plan that includes the revenues needed to guarantee every child and public college student a quality education."
In PreK-12 education, the House cuts include the following:
- Aid to local schools (Chapter 70) slashed by $150 million, or almost 5 percent. Some communities' Chapter 70 aid cut by 20 percent.
- Non-Chapter 70 local aid cut by $187 million, or up to 15 percent. It is estimated that 50 percent of this aid, on average, goes to public schools.
- Deep cuts in education grant programs, including: class size reduction ($18 million, or 100 percent); early childhood education ($20 million, or 21 percent); MCAS remediation ($40 million, or 80 percent); full-day kindergarten ($5 million, or 18 percent) and public transportation reimbursement ($52 million, or 100%) and regional transportation ($15 million, or 37 percent).
"If funding remains at the proposed House levels, September will be bleak for many of our school children," said Boudreau. "Class sizes will balloon as a result of teacher lay offs; programs for students and professional development for teachers will be cut or eliminated. The progress of the past decade will come to a standstill and there is a risk our education system will slide backwards."
Under the House budget, public higher education would be cut by approximately 20 percent below the FY03 level. It was cut by an additional $114 million in the previous two years.
These higher education cuts will mean:
- Increased tuition and fees for students;
- Replacement of full-time faculty with part-time adjuncts;
- Reductions in course availability for many students;
- Reductions in valuable resources, including elimination of all state funding for libraries;
- A third consecutive year of unfunded contracts for more than 12,000 public higher education employees.
In addition to failing to fund these contracts, the House budget reduces the state's contribution to health care for all state workers, including higher education faculty and staff, and will require new higher education faculty and staff and new K-12 educators to pay more for their pensions. Currently, the state-employee split on health insurance premiums is 85-15. Under the House budget, the split for current employees will be 80-20 and for new employees will be 75-25. Pension contributions will increase for new employees from 11 percent already one of the highest rates in the country to 12 percent.
"These provisions will make it harder to attract and retain qualified educators throughout Massachusetts," said Boudreau. "For many of the faculty and staff who have not received a raise for three years, the cut in benefits poses a real economic hardship. We will be urging the Senate to undo these damaging changes."
Boudreau called on the Senate to "go back to the drawing board" on education funding. "Schools and colleges need stable and adequate budgets for their institutions to thrive. A good education system is at the foundation of our economy and our democracy, and it should not be sacrificed in order to sustain unaffordable tax breaks."