It has been a busy time at the state capitol, but there is still very little movement on bridging the state’s $1.3 billion budget deficit, and that has some school leaders concerned.
Kim Lanier is the voice of experience. He’s been the superintendent of Oakdale Schools for 35-years and tells News 9 this isn’t the worst budget crisis he’s seen.
“I think it’s probably the second worst I would say,” Lanier said.
The state had similar budget problems in the 80s and Lanier says, unfortunately, lawmakers didn’t seem to learn from their mistakes.
The state is bracing for its third revenue failure in June. That will mean more cuts. The Speaker of the House of Representatives last week said he won’t accept anything more than 5-percent cuts to common education.
But Lanier says that number is deceptive because, in most schools, 80-to-85 percent of the budget is for salaries. And you can’t lay off teachers mid-way through the school year. So that five percent will come out of whatever’s left after salaries.
“You’re taking the five percent cut not out of your budget but out of that 15 to 20 percent of the budget that you actually have to pay bills with,” Lanier said.
He says he would like to see more budget talks and less partisan politics at the capitol.
“Maybe a little bit more cooperation and a little less putting up fences would help,” Lanier said. “If I would hear more ‘We all agree’ as opposed to ‘This party, this party,’ I think that would bring a little bit of reassurance.”
Regardless of the cuts though, Lanier says experience tells him public education will survive.
“It won’t be OK,” Lanier said. “It may be a step backwards. But we will…we will survive.”