(KCPW News) Tears come to State Superintendent Patti Harrington's eyes as she thinks about the budget cuts to come. While the governor has promised education will be "held harmless" this year, next year is going to hurt.
"I feel very passionately about maintaining great education for the kids in Utah," Harrington says. "And while funding doesn't solve every problem, because education is so people intensive, any cuts to education typically mean we're going to have fewer teachers to help kids, fewer paraprofessionals or less access to quality materials."
She asked the committee to give her office and the State Board of Education the final say for how to trim three percent from next year's budget. The board meets Monday to review the suggested cuts the office of education prepared.
However, a motion passed unanimously by the committee yesterday does not leave it up to the state's top educators to cut next year's budget. Instead, Senator Howard Stephenson's motion gives lawmakers the responsibility, though he intends to include stakeholders in the process.
"I think we've got our work cut out for us. And it's important that nobody leaves this session and believes that these are permanent reductions," Stephenson says. "I think we need to own that responsibility and have some recommendations for when we come into the session."
The committee also approved Harrington's list of recommended cuts to this year's budget, totaling about $75 million. It includes cuts to the general fund, building funds and various education agencies, including the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. But what is cut from this year's budget will be immediately replaced by an undetermined source, and won't necessarily be cut next year.