State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna today explained why his figures on looming cuts in school budgets are different from those in the governor’s budget presentation: He’s not counting just state general funds, but all funds. Luna, who held a round-table with reporters today to talk about budgets and the “Race to the Top” grant application, noted that in addition to the $1.231 billion in state general funds going to schools this year, there’s also $64.15 million in state dedicated funds, $145.7 million in federal stimulus funds, and $269.6 million in other federal funds. That totals $1.7 billion.
The governor’s budget recommendation for schools for next year is $1.217 million in state general funds, a $14.3 million or 1.2 percent reduction. But the total-funds recommendation also includes $59.8 million in state dedicated funds; $33.07 million in federal stimulus funds; and $270.8 million in other federal funds. That totals $1.58 billion, an overall reduction of $130 million or 7.6 percent.
“A $130 million reduction - that in and of itself should alarm every mother and father (of children) in our school system,” Luna said. “If you couple that with our monies that were spent last year, we’re talking about almost $200 million that has been cut from our public school system over a two-year period of time.” Luna said $68 million was cut from the “maintenance” budget for schools during last year’s legislative session, the funding level needed to continue providing the same services, though some funds were added back in after that to cover student enrollment growth. The growth money goes only to districts that gain students, he said. Gov. Butch Otter’s budget proposal for next year includes $9 million for growth, but Luna said he thought more than $22 million was needed. He said if the growth funding isn’t counted, schools are looking at a $139 million overall drop next year. If the student population grows beyond projections, the state must fund the added cost from its reserve accounts.