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Why are education and other state services being cut. What is the problem? When the New Mexico Legislature passed $1 billion in tax cuts for corporations and the rich in 2003, this created a budget deficit which lawmakers balanced with increased tax revenues from higher oil and gas prices. After the energy prices dropped, the deficit reappeared. But the 2009 State Legislature refused to repeal the $1 billion in tax cuts for corporations and the rich in order to balance the deficit. Instead, lawmakers cut the student unit funding value by $9 for 2008-09 and another $20.68 for 2009-10, resulting in deep education cuts. Lawmakers also passed HB 854 which increased retirement deductions for education employees by 1.5 percent for two years. This gave the state about $84 million to use elsewhere since they made state employees contribute part of the state’s portion into their retirement fund. Lawmakers refused to provide education employees with cost-of-living increases. They also refused to provide schools with funding to pay for increased utility and insurance costs. Finally, lawmakers refused to spend President Obama’s education stimulus to save jobs and create new jobs in New Mexico’s public schools.
As a retired educator after 39 years of teaching, I am appalled and saddened that the teachers and staff in New Mexico have already taken between a 2 percent and 5 percent decrease, including increased medical insurance in income from last year. When I and nine other Los Alamos staff members were at the Capitol to attend this unification rally, several House leaders were discussing a plan to reduce education salaries by 2.5 percent more on Nov. 1, 2009.
These are among the other ineffective ideas that are circulating:
• Cut education spending by 3.5 percent and reduce state employees;
• Reduce state agencies, higher education and school spending by almost 5 percent; and
• Leave education and Medicaid budget alone, but reduce everything else in state government by about 16 percent.
Why is it that when the state was flush with money, the richest people (those earning over $295,000) got a tax reduction, but when the state is not flush with money, lawmakers cut pay and services for state employees who earn nowhere near $295,000 a year? Why aren’t lawmakers looking for ways to raise money rather than cut salaries and services? Why can’t they close the tax loopholes for the big out-of-state corporations such as Starbucks, Walmart and Target, who pay very little taxes to New Mexico?
Why do they see cutting spending as the only solution?
What about telling those who got the tax rollback six years ago that we now need the surplus money we gave you back? Explain to them that schools and their employees cannot lose any more money. New Mexico is in dire need of improvements, not cuts, to education. Weren’t we just questioning why our drop out rate was so large?
And did you notice the requests from the high school staff that were printed on the front page of the Monitor last week? Teachers needed to ask parents for markers, tissues, sanitizing hand wipes, paper, and pens.
What is going on?
The American Federation of Teachers and other union members tried to do something by gathering at the Round House last Friday. Unfortunately the major media barely covered the huge march on the Round House. There were over 3,000 people there The security guard at the Roundhouse said this was the largest crowd he had ever seen in his 23 years working there. The 3000 educational staff and students unified to present information to the Legislators on how to raise revenue for our state rather than cut state employee salaries, money to education and other public services.
Los Alamos has always been fortunate to have outstanding teachers. They have unselfishly given their time and energy to tutor our children. Now they might have to stop giving extra time to students so they can get a second job to make ends meet. Education cuts will hurt everyone — teachers, staff and your children. Maybe athletics or music or electives or other programs will be cut. Other districts in New Mexico do not have “electives and specials.” No matter what, your children will be affected.
What can you do? Before Saturday, please take time to call and e-mail your local legislator and urge them to roll back those tax cuts and find proactive ways to balance the budget.
Then you can attend the legislative session on Saturday, beginning at noon in the State Capitol
Thank you for helping to save our schools and our children.
Karyl Ann Armbruster