In a memo dated Friday but widely circulated today, Idaho’s Legislative Services Office has asked all state agencies to provide information no later than this Thursday on the impacts of a possible budget cut of up to 5 percent for FY 2012. For Idaho public schools, this would mean a possible cut of $60.8 million on top of the $200 million in cuts over the past two years.
“The Co-Chairmen of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee have directed our office to notify all agencies that receive General Fund support to consider programmatic changes that support a lower spending level for FY 2012,” wrote Cathy Holland-Smith, manager of the Budget & Policy Analysis Division. She added that this new reduction “should incorporate the cuts proposed in the Governor’s recommendation; but in no instance should be less than the reduction included in the Governor’s recommendation.” (See the full memo here.) The cuts, if made across the board to all state agencies, would total $126 million.
Of course, the true education funding picture has been massively muddied this year by the introduction of Superintendent Tom Luna’s plan to radically alter how education is delivered in Idaho. With so many questions left unanswered in his plan and new ones emerging daily, it seems unlikely that his Department of Education can answer this question with any kind of assurance by this Thursday. And although Mr. Luna argues that Idaho’s ongoing budget crisis makes his plan all the more necessary, the plan’s uncertain costs and unintended consequences may lead to even greater fiscal havoc for Idaho schools in FY 2012 than we’ve seen in the last two difficult years.