House Democrats have been hammering away at House Republicans and their proposed budget for its education cuts, but Democrats themselves took an ax to school spending when they controlled the money.
The budget Democrats passed in 2009 cut the education budget 10 percent and included what's called a 'recurring' $225 million reduction. That means school systems have to cut $225 million every year, even though it doesn't show up in later budgets. Last year, Democrats included a $304 million recurring cut. So schools are carrying at least $530 million in cuts from this year on.
House Minority Leader Joe Hackney said Democrats didn't have a choice, and did the best they could to support schools using money from the federal stimulus and state revenues.
"We had topped out all our sources of possible ways to avoid it," the Orange County Democrat said. "The current Republican budget does not do that. It does not look for relatively easy ways to avoid their pretty serious cuts."
House Democrats want Republicans to extend temporary taxes set to expire this year.
House Republicans have a $42 million recurring cut in their budget for next year, part of an 8.8 percent reduction for K-12.
House Majority Leader Paul Stam of Apex said the real reduction, comparing this year's spending to the proposal for next year, is about 3.3 percent.
Natural turnover will compensate for any teaching jobs lost, he said. Last year, nearly 7,000 teachers retired, left the state, or left the profession. The House proposal would cut about half the teacher assistants. According to the state Department of Public Instruction, that would amount to 11,086 jobs.
Stam said district superintendents could compensate for those cuts by moving money from other place such as textbooks to hire the teacher assistants they need.