Education chief calls budget "smoke and mirrors"

State Board of Education chairman Bill Harrison joined House Democrats to denounce school funding in the GOP budget plan.

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Laura Leslie

State Board of Education chairman Bill Harrison joined House Democrats Friday to warn about the effects of the GOP budget proposal on K-12 classrooms.

Republican leaders say the cuts they’re making to public education will not affect the classroom. They say their budget protects teachers and teaching assistants by giving local officials the flexibility to cut spending elsewhere, like support services and administration.

Harrison called that claim “smoke and mirrors” and “categorically untrue.”

Harrison said 88% to 91% of local budgets are personnel. He said districts have already pared staff outside the classroom during the last two years of deep budget cuts.

He said he met with more than a dozen school superintendents Friday morning who told him the $124 million in additional local cuts will mean pink slips for teachers. “There is no where else to go,” he said.

GOP leaders say the state needs educational reform, and their budget takes the first steps toward that with $61 million for more teachers to help lower class sizes in early grades. But Harrison said the local cuts will take away twice what budget writers have added.

“The system needs to be improved, no doubt about that,” Harrison said. “But to say that this budget can do anything to improve schools is totally misguided, totally misleading.”

Watch the whole press conference at right.


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