Weekly Radio Address: Sen. Millett says budget must support, not undermine, public schools

Posted: January 13, 2017 | Education and Cultural Affairs, Senator Millett, Weekly Radio Address

It’s budget season in Augusta, and once again, our public schools are under attack.

Hi, this is Rebecca Millett, the lead Senate Democrat on the Legislature’s Education Committee. Thanks for tuning in.

Sen. Rebecca Millet, D-Cape Elizabeth

Sen. Rebecca Millet, D-Cape Elizabeth

Gov. Paul LePage unveiled his two-year budget proposal last week. By every conceivable measure, the budget cuts funding to public schools and wreaks havoc on our system of public education and local control.

The budget creates chaos in the public education system by blowing up the school funding formula without any suggestion on how to replace it.

The funding formula ensures essential programs and services are offered to every student, regardless of their ZIP code. Researchers, hand-picked by Gov. LePage himself, have hailed the system as equitable and fair. In fact, an independent study said Maine’s shortcomings aren’t in the way it distributes money to local schools, but in its failure to distribute enough money at all.

On funding, Gov. LePage’s budget gets another ‘F.’

The plan slashes state spending on education by more than $20 million, less than three months after Mainers took the ballot box and demanded the state provide more funding to local schools. It was the second time voters sent a clear message to Augusta, after they first voted ten years ago to require the state to do more for public education.

School districts cannot absorb the chaos proposed by the governor’s budget. Nor can Mainers absorb the skyrocketing property tax bills that are sure to result from these cuts in state education funding.

A robust system of public education is critical for any society that aspires to greatness. It allows individuals to meet their full potential, not only in the economy, but also in our civil society. After all, democracy requires an educated electorate, capable of thoughtfully weighing different sides of the issues as they participate in the democratic process.

The stakes are high. Luckily, the governor’s proposal is only the first draft of the budget. The final version is up to the Legislature. On the Education Committee, I’ll be fighting everyday to ensure the budget is a win for our students and schools. Mainers demand nothing less.

This is Senator Rebecca Millett. Thanks for listening.