“It could be worse!”
That’s the mantra we’re now used to hearing from human services, education and local officials grappling with budget cuts and the resulting layoffs. Maybe in this context, an 8.4 percent cutin the state’s k-12 education spending may seem mild:
“While certainly severe, cuts to education have not been as extreme as those in some other areas of the state budget including Local Aid (cut 37.6 percent), Environment & Recreation (cut 26.7 percent ), and Law & Public Safety (cut 14.6 percent). Much of the total cut to Education comes from Non-Chapter 70 Aid programs (cut 24.5 percent), Early Education and Care (cut 18.3 percent), and Higher Education (cut 16.4 percent).” (Mass Budget and Policy Center report)
Here’s a snapshot of how this 8.7 percent cut looks in North Worcester County, where the Sentinel and Enterprise reporting staff did an excellent job of quantifying the cuts:
“Six teachers in Fitchburg public schools have received layoff notices, and Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District has notified about six teachers representing 4.85 full-time positions that they will be laid off along with a guidance counselor, a custodian, and six paraprofessionals for a total of 14 lost jobs.
North Middlesex Regional School District expects to layoff about 20 teachers and let go another 15 non-teacher employees through attrition, said Superintendent Maureen Marshall.”
In short, the only towns not laying off teachers and staff are those who did so last year.
Kudos to the Sentinel and Enterprise for bringing these stories to light.
Our elected leadership has understandably downplayed the cuts in the budgets released by the governor, House and Senate. No elected official cherishes being the bearer of bad news. But the reality is, our education system and other key public infrastructures are not being funded at sustainable levels.
We need more investment. Downplaying the severity of budget cuts can undermine meaningful debate about revenue solutions like the Act to Invest in Our Communities.