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Budget negotiation leaves education, teachers cut short

Posted at 8:59 PM, Jun 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-12 22:35:23-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The state Senate has approved a plan to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the state budget. However, some believe there should've been a focus on propping up local education systems.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic in America, the state government is facing a $500 million dollar shortfall.

Lawmakers are trying to make up for that lost cash by going through the budget and making cuts, item-by-item.

The Senate approved their version of cuts on Thursday. The plan includes cuts to promised teacher pay raises and school choice funds.

In all, the budget makes up for much of the $500 million. However, one state senator wished the budget would've allocated some of the federal COVID-19 money to local education agencies to help prevent cuts to school positions.

“I presented a budget amendment that would’ve taken the 120 million dollars that we approved in our March budget for COVID relief and reallocated that to our local school districts," said Memphis Democratic Senator Raumesh Akbari. "The reason for that is the funding for the COVID relief has been covered by the federal government. So, instead of putting that money back in the reserves we would’ve preferred that it go out to our school districts."

Akbari said that amendment was shut down, but highlighted that education is taking a back seat in these budget cuts.

Teacher pay raises that were promised at the beginning of the year, when a budget surplus was expected for 2020, were canceled. They were part of Governor Lee's plan, but even he says the budget situation is dire.

This year may have a $500 million shortfall, but next year's is estimated to be over $1 billion.

Lee said it's a major challenge for the state and he expects departments will have to dip into reserves and make their own cuts.