As part of state budget cuts, the Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee voted unanimously Thursday to recommend approving a proposal for a 3 percent ongoing budget reduction in public education.

A 3 percent cut means $75.9 million sliced from public education agencies. However, legislators say that money will be "backfilled" to education to make up the difference.

As directed by the governor, this backfill action would "hold education harmless" from fiscal 2009 budget cuts.

A total of $50 million would be used from monies left over in the minimum school program and about $10 million carried over from the State Office of Education for an approximate total of $60 million in non-lapsing funds during fiscal 2008. Legislative fiscal analysts said they aren't sure at this time where the rest would come from to create $75 million.

State Superintendent Patti Harrington, tearing up as she addressed the subcommittee Thursday, said she appreciated education being held harmless.

"It's vitally important our kids have continued service this year," she said.

The real discussion is where to find the money for education for fiscal 2010. The committee agreed Thursday to examine, between now and the general session, what future education budget cuts could be.

Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, said he believes rainy day funds shouldn't be thought of as helping with ongoing budget issues because "rainy days happen now — not continually. It will be raining for years."

USOE officials spent the last week proposing cuts, generally throughout their departments.

Following their presentation to the subcommittee Thursday, Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said, "It's hard to do this, but I think it's a good proposal that spreads the pain across the board."

A 3 percent cut for public education would mean:

• Minimum School Funding: $73,160,800

• School Building Program: $818,700

• USOE: (total $767,300)

• State Board of Educations: no cuts

• Student Achievement: $279,800

• Data and Business Services: $444,900

• Law, Legislation & Ed Services: $42,600

• Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind: $731,500

• State Charter School Board (USOE office administration): $21,300

• Educator Licensing: no cuts

• Child Nutrition: $4,900

• Fine Arts Outreach: $191,400

• Science Outreach: $125,300

• Corrections Institutions: $115,600

The cuts to corrections institutions could impact teacher hours and materials in classes in the Utah State Prison, as well as Youth in Custody Programs, said Todd Hauber, USOE associate superintendent of business services.

Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, said he feels taking money from USDB would be "devastating." He said he went there a few weeks ago and teachers were painting the walls themselves. And the carpets were filthy. "I would suggest, as we move forward, we find a different place (to cut)," he said.

Regarding the minimum school program, and making cuts evenly across programs, Wimmer asked if there were any particular school programs that could be axed that would be the least damaging to the education of children. "Was this the wisest way to go?" Wimmer said, of USOE's proposal in general.

Harrington told the committee there is $20 million waiting to be sent to teachers in participating districts and charter schools for merit pay in the Legislature's performance-based compensation plan. That money is ready to go out after the Oct. 1 enrollment count.

Two school programs, one for Web-based preschool learning and the other with English Language Learner software and family literacy centers, are out for bid right now and could be options to cut, she said.

Hauber said, however, those programs are one-time monies and wouldn't help the budget long-term.

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