August 18, 2019

Cutting into education

It’s time to stop the reckless cutting and bleeding of our educational systems in this state. Readers should find interesting what is really being done now to higher education in Maine. After having deferred $13 million of support to the University of Maine System, the governor wants to defer another $11 million on an indefinite basis — this means no one knows exactly when the monies will be granted. And, this deferment will apply to the current semester and create hardships for students and teachers already under way in their class schedules.

I made a few phone calls and found the probable reason for the current withdrawal of support for the system from the state is that “people won’t scream.” Well, maybe it’s time to scream. It is obvious from the following figures that our children and grandchildren have taken enough. We cannot, at this level of education, continue to allow these cuts.

For the flagship campus in Orono, the cuts are particularly severe. The likely share of this latest proposed reduction to the Orono campus will be $4.3 million. A projected loss of $2 million reflects the potential drop in enrollment as a result of this lack of support. When the inflation factor and debt service of $0.86 million is added, the combined cut and lost revenue adds up to $7.1 million. If this June payment is deferred, the UM system budget will be $32.9 million less than the state originally approved for this fiscal year, an actual reduction of 21 percent. Our educational systems cannot take cuts of this magnitude and still offer the diversity of study and educational opportunities to high school students.

Legislators tell me they have not had a significant outcry on this proposed deferment of payment. I hope this is due to lethargy, not just to sheer lack of interest on the part of people who feel the university is a vital factor in the economy of the Penobscot Valley and surrounding areas. The government in Augusta needs to hear people who have had enough. You can reach your senator at 800-423-6900, and Gov. McKernan at 287-3531.

I am not usually a political activist. But I believe these educational cuts, often monies that are never replaced, have to stop if our system and, most especially, our highly regarded teaching and research facility at Orono, are to survive and serve our future generations. Attempts to balance the state budget on the backs of our educational institutions will only serve to weaken the educational system to the detriment of these future generations of Maine children.

These are difficult times. However, even in the face of adversity there is opportunity. Let us not get so involved in the present that we fail future generations. The burden is ours. John F. Kennedy wrote, “… those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future.”

Michael M. Carney is a Lincoln businessman.

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