Each November 15th, the Connecticut budget office projects state revenues and expenditures for the next few years. This year, the news was bad. A $1.2 billion hole has been projected in the state budget. Governor Malloy said he would not raise taxes to plug the hole. What this means is that the expenditure side of the budget must be reduced. Two-thirds of the most expensive programs in the state budget are either politically or legally untouchable. They include:
- Medical services for children, poor adults, the elderly and the disabled;
- State employee salaries and benefits (Union employees cannot be laid off.);
- Teachers’ Retirement Contributions (untouchable because legally required);
- The Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant; and
- Payments on the state’s debt (also legally required)
That means that the remaining one-third of the budget will have to bear a significant portion of the cuts. It is time for education advocates to take a stand: the education reform initiatives that Governor Malloy put into the FY 2013 budget are far too important for them to become a part of any reduction scenario created to balance the state budget. As an illustrative example, the new Commissioner’s Network of schools currently includes only four schools. Over the next two years, the Commissioner’s Network is supposed to expand to at least twenty-five schools. Limiting funding for this essential education reform program would have a chilling effect on the state’s capacity to turn around its lowest-achieving schools, a critical component of Connecticut’s efforts to narrow the achievement gap in our state. We do not have another year to waste; we must move forward with the impressive reform agenda that was advanced by Governor Malloy during the Year of Education Reform and that was embraced with bi-partisan support. The long-term financial stability of our state and the futures of our children depend on today’s financial support for education reform.