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Gov. Bill Richardson has it right. He continues to speak out for holding public schools harmless in a special session of the legislature and he has been consistent and firm in that commitment.
It has been disturbing to see letters from prominent legislators saying that our schools can survive a 10 percent cut for this year. Quite simply, public schools cannot survive another round of cuts. Public school funding was cut to the bone by the 2009 legislature. $29 million was cut from public schools forcing employees to contribute 1.5 percent more to retirement, effectively reducing salaries and take home pay. The 2009 legislature refused to fund increases in health insurance costs, forcing employees to accept greatly reduced health insurance benefits and pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars more in health care costs. State general fund commitment to public education was cut by another $165 million during the 2009 legislative session. While this cut was replaced with federal stimulus funds, it is further evidence of a reduced commitment to public education on the part of the legislature. These cuts happened in spite of the fact that the legislature knew that public schools were already grossly underfunded. The Legislature’s own Funding Formula Task Force has already determined that even in 2007, schools were underfunded by some $350 million.
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