A definition of dismantle: "1: to take to pieces ; also : to destroy the integrity or functioning of; 2: to strip of dress or covering : divest; 3: to strip of furniture and equipment."
Used in a sentence, in an editorial in today's Idaho Statesman: "Gov. Butch Otter wants to preside over a dismantling of Idaho public schools. There is no subtle way to say it. And there is no way Idahoans should accept it. Otter's K-12 plan - using the word loosely - calls for cutting 5 percent from the schools' budget for teachers and staff. This will mean fewer class days, fewer teachers in the schools, and more children crammed into classes."
Is that a dismantling, though, and does Otter want to preside over it? Does a 5% budget cut - serious as it is, and it is serious - amount to a deconstruction of the system? We'd probably suggest a little more generosity than the Statesman has, recognizing the difficulty of the financial situation and Otter's limited options.
And they are more limited than many people may realize. From Otter's rebuttal to the editorial (and other critiques): "The reality is that I have some discretion – with legislative concurrence – over the use of less than $45 million of the $1.2 billion that is available to Idaho. That amounts to about 3.6 percent of the total. Given those limitations, all I am proposing to do is what people on Main Streets and in families all over Idaho are doing – tightening their belts. The people we serve are doing it; state government must not be exempt."
That last gives us a sharp spin of its own, though. This year's economic crisis has to do more with a lack of spending - a freezing up of money that usually flows through the economy - than it does with profligacy; over-indebtedness may have gotten us into much of this mess, but the problem now is that people aren't spending. There's never an excuse for waste, but "belt-tightening", whether governmental or otherwise, isn't the recipe for renewal at the moment.
This whole debate, which has been going on (in Boise as elsewhere) more quietly for some time but seems to have erupted today (in Boise), with the editorial, the governor's rebuttal, and other commentary. In Idaho, the key debate seems to revolve around the honeypot: The state's rainy day fund, which Otter is loathe to use (recognizing that the economic downturn may last into another budget cycle) and others are suggesting be used to at least some greater extent. The idea of finding new revenue to help bridge the gap appears to be off the table. (more…)