Proposed Budget Cuts Could Devastate School Districts

Proposed Budget Cuts Could Devastate School Districts

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Education specialist Sandra Yi reporting

Utah educators are anxiously waiting to see what the Legislature will do next week to re-balance the 2003 budget.

One proposal -- 3 1/2 percent cuts across the board.

The first round of education cuts cost the state's largest school district nearly $7 million.

Like many districts, the Jordan School District tried to make up for the shortfall without hurting students.

This time around, educators say that won't be possible.

A 3 1/2 percent cut would mean a nearly $47 million dollar shortfall to public education.

Educators say that would be devastating.

Already public and higher education absorbed $96.5 million in cuts this year.

And Utah is still last when it comes to per-pupil spending.

"Everything in education would be, already has been, impacted, but this would seriously impact everything we're trying to do," says Scott Berryessa with Jordan Education Association.

For example, a 3 1/2 percent cut in the Jordan School District's budget would equal more than $7 million -- an amount the district can't afford.

"Any, any cuts at that point cuts into the marrow of our district," Berryessa says.

Jordan administrators say class sizes would go up again and employees would have to take another pay cut.

But this time, that wouldn't be enough to make ends meet.

Extracurricular activities like sports and music could be reduced - even eliminated.

The district may also request shortening the school year to save on operating costs.

"It's easy to say, make across the board cuts in the state budget, but you're really cutting into the core of what the economic future of Utah is, which is a sound education system," Berryessa says.

Governor Mike Leavitt has said he opposes further cuts in education.

He will give his ideas on how to re-balance the budget and release budget recommendations for the next fiscal year this weekend.

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