To Gov. Butch Otter's credit, every time he has ordered a holdback in state funding, due to declining state revenues, education has been asked to take less of a hit than other state agencies.
But between the holdbacks, and funding constraints imposed by the legislature in the last five years (even when things were good), there is no question education is suffering.
Meanwhile, the state keeps asking school districts to do more with less. Eventually, things are going to reach a breaking point. For the Mountain Home School District, that point has been reached.
The reserves are gone, the district no longer exceeds state standards for teachers and administers and some very painful cuts are in the future -- unless the voters agree to pick up the slack from the state and replace the funding needs of the district with a special, one-time property tax.
The district is going to ask the public where it should make cuts in hopes it can find ideas that work and to help avoid seeking a special levy.
But frankly, the chances that somebody is going to come up with something the district hasn't already considered -- and already implemented -- are slim.
It would be a shame if the only programs left were the basics of reading, writing and mathematics. That's three classes for a school day.
Do we really want to cut programs such as drama, debate, music, art, advanced placement classes and athletics? No. Each has a valuable purpose in inspiring and motivating students. The dropout rate is already way too high (roughly one in three students) and slashing programs that keep kids, even good students, in school is not a good idea.
Should we cut back on those programs? The district may have to, but if it does, it means there will be fewer openings for students to access those programs.
Should the state cut back on the unfunded mandates it imposes on the schools? Certainly, although many districts actually would prefer to keep some of those mandated programs, such as the math initiative. Cutting back on mandates would give districts more local control over how their money is spent. A lot of it is out of their hands right now, anyway.
But for the legislature, local control seems to mean pushing districts to convince the voters to tax themselves more, locally, so the state doesn't have to pay for these programs.
This has got to stop. If the state mandates a program, it needs to have the moral courage to raise the necessary taxes to fund it, not slip the responsibility downward.
Frankly, we just don't see many good options for the school district. There's no fat -- or even muscle -- left. The cuts are now deep into bone.
For our children and grandchildren to survive in the 21st century we need expanded education, not a reduction in educational capabilities.
This is going to hurt in many ways, at many, many levels.