Today I got up at an ungodly hour so that I could drive to the state capital to attend a legislative forum designed to allow state representatives and senators to answer questions from school administrators.
After approximately 5 hours time devoted to this endeavor, I came away with the following key piece of information: there is less than 50 million dollars in new revenue available to spend this year on any new projects. The funding request for common education alone is 510 million dollars above last year’s numbers. Does anyone else see a problem here? The $510 million represents what it would cost for the state to actually fund all the mandates that are already in place and raise spending on education to the regional average.
Obviously that is not going to happen. What will happen? Education will be fighting it out to share less than 10% of that amount with the needs of the departments of corrections and transportation. And, there are people who are still talking about tax cuts. We’ve had record revenue here because of the boom in oil production taxes lately (I’m guessing people might have noticed that the price of oil has gone up a bit, raising the rate of domestic production, no?). Instead of using this windfall to shore up things that had been let go for years (like our bridges and prisons), it was tax-cutting time at the capital. Everyone loves a good tax cut, right? But the amount of return for the individual family was minuscule overall, and it takes a vote of the people in this state to raise taxes once they’ve been cut. How likely do you think that is to happen?
So now, and for a long time in the future, we’ll be feeling the impact of those tax cuts–of our leveraging of the needs of our children, the future of the state, for the sake of political gain.