If you look at the public school budget set this morning in general funds, it's $109.3 million less than this year's general-fund budget for schools. The cut is that large, in part, because Rep. Cliff Bayer successfully led a move to shift $20.5 million in general funds out of the school budget and replace it with federal stimulus money that otherwise would have been saved for schools next year. But even if you subtract that $20.5 million from the cut, schools would be getting $88.8 million less next year in state general funds than they got this year, well above the $62 million in cuts outlined earlier by state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna. Luna maintains that federal stimulus money helps soften the cut so that it still meets his guidelines.
Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, says he sees the school budget as a 3.4 percent overall cut in funding. That's because it plugs in $40 million in stimulus money to "backfill" the state-funded budget; if that's subtracted from the $109 million general-fund cut, it leaves about a $69 million cut to schools, or roughly 3.4 percent. That's not counting Bayer's fund shift, which zeroes out as far as its effect on schools next year. Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, who led the move to trim the base pay cut for teachers from 5 percent to 2.63 percent for next year, said, "It's just a sad day. These decisions are very difficult, very difficult, but we're trying to balance things across the entire budget."