Education vs. social services? House debates funding priorities

Jan 25, 2011

Lawmakers face stark choices when it comes to the budget. Those choices were on display Monday as the House voted on a cost-cutting bill. Democrats and Republicans split over what to cut next: education or social services.

House Republicans have a mantra: fund education first. So, here’s how they would cut state spending in the remaining months of the fiscal year:

  • eliminate the Basic Health Plan
  • eliminate Disability Lifeline
  • eliminate and health care for children whose citizenship has not been documented

Majority Democrats instead voted to retroactively cut $42 million from programs to reduce class sizes in grades K-4.

Republican Ed Orcutt blasted that choice:

“Retroactive cuts to our schools doesn’t do anything to fund our paramount duty which is education.”

Technically, funding to reduce class sizes is not constitutionally protected.

Democrats like Representative Pat Sullivan defended the decision to put social services ahead of some education funding:

“A student who comes to school hungry or cold or sick has a greatly diminished capacity to learn.”

The current two-year budget is $600 million in the hole. The bill approved by the House would cut the shortfall by more than half.