Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brooks says state budget can't be balanced on cuts alone

Reacting to Governor Bill Richardson's proposal to cut state education funding by 1.5 percent, Albuquerque Public Schools' Superintendent Winston Brooks said the state's largest school district might be able to handle those level of cuts and keep the spending reduction from impacting classrooms directly.

But Brooks warns 'the state's budget can’t be balanced by cutting waste alone.'

“I’ve worked in APS now for almost two years and I just don't find the waste that most people think exists there. In fact, our general administration budget is less than 1%. You can't cut that and balance any budget,” Brooks said.

The superintendent said lawmakers will ‘definitely’ have to look at revenue enhancements, but said APS might be able to handle cuts up to 3 percent.

“We have a plan to try to keep our cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. If it's any more than 3% we're in a heap of trouble,” Brooks said. If it’s more, Brooks said, “The legislature is going to have to change some legislation to allow us to use some of our SB-9 and HB-33 for operational expenses. That's a lion's share of it. The rest of it is taking stimulus money that we had planned to use for our special education and Title 1 kids and use it for our operational budget.”

Brooks said lawmakers who claim raising taxes will hurt the re-election should take a close look at the new poll by Research and Polling, Inc. for for New Mexico Education Partners which shows 81 percent of New Mexico voters don't support education cuts.

“They all say they can't raise taxes because it will hurt their election, if that be the case then I would think they would pay some attention to this poll that says if they do cut education their election is in jeopardy,” said Brooks.

Meanwhile, in a prepared statement proposing his 1.5 percent education cuts, Richardson said he made it "very clear to legislators that any cuts to education must be minimal and not affect our classrooms, kids and teachers.”

The governor credited the minimal cuts to his administration's efforts over the last seven years to keep cash reserves at 10 percent or higher.

Putting more money in the classroom

On Saturday, Rio Grande Foundation's Paul Gessing said he'd like to see more money in the classroom and less money on bureaucrats.

“New Mexico, contrary to popular belief, spends a lot of money on education. We have the eighth highest per capita spending on education in the country. There’s plenty of administrators and other highly paid folks we can look at getting rid of,” Gessing said. “We have proven that bureaucracies actually harm education results. The top five states in the country as far as results spend about 65% of their money in the classroom on education, whereas the bottom five of which surprise, surprise New Mexico is a part, along with those perennial all-stars like Louisiana and Mississippi, that we also find ourselves in the midst of, we spend 59.5% in the classroom.

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