"We had no choice"
The changes approved last week [ed: specifically, much larger education cuts in the Senate budget than those proposed by the governor] represent a significant shift away from policies to which legislative leaders and Democratic governors have been linked closely over the past 15 years.
“Nobody can deny that,” said Sen. Vernon Malone, D-Wake, co-chairman of the education budget subcommittee.
“We had no choice. We agonized over this, but we had no choice. We had to find the money somewhere.”
Agony aside, it's going to happen more and more. When Malone says that they have to find the money somewhere, he's talking about money for other spending obligations, some discretionary but many mandated. And since states are required to balance their budgets, they have no choice but to cut spending in areas like education.
And in fact, education is about to face two hits at the state level. Not only are states starting to reduce funding for K-12 education, but they are playing a shell game with the federal stimulus money earmarked for schools, as noted in "Schools' money is 'falling off the truck'," which ran in the 4/13 Washington Post:
Educators across the country are counting on a federal stimulus windfall to prevent teacher layoffs and improve schools. But while Washington is giving, some state and local governments are taking away.
After hearing that an initial batch of $11.8 million in federal funds would soon arrive in Loudoun County, supervisors slashed $7.3 million from the schools budget. They also made clear that if more federal recovery money flows to schools, schools might be asked to give back an equal amount of county dollars.
"The money is falling off the truck between Washington and the local schoolhouse," said Robley S. Jones, director of government affairs for the Virginia Education Association, which represents teachers.
This is the new reality - the job ahead of us now is to accept a future of reduced government funding and develop strategies for dealing with it. Since expectations for outcomes are only going to increase, that means finding alternate sources of support, getting better results with fewer resources (i.e., improving ROI), or more likely, both.