BOSTON — Deep cuts in state spending will mean larger classes, closed schools, fewer teachers and fewer sports programs for the million students returning to Massachusetts public schools and colleges next month, educators said.
At the state's 29 public colleges and universities, students will feel the effects of a $39.3-million cut in higher education funding ordered by Gov. Michael S. Dukakis. The 1,800 public schools will have to shoulder their share of a $210-million reduction in state aid to cities and towns.
Educators use words like "disaster," "tragedy," and "devastation" to describe the impact.
The governor, who touted his state's booming economy during his unsuccessful presidential campaign last year, only to be confronted by a large state deficit this year, expressed deep regret in announcing the cuts last month. But he said he had little choice but to carve $491 million out of the state's 1989-90 budget.
The cuts and the withholding of funds were needed to bring the budget to $12.2 billion, in keeping with a balanced-budget provision in the Massachusetts constitution.
Schools in communities small and large will feel the pinch. For example:
--Brockton is considering a plan to charge high school athletes to take part in sports programs.
--The small central Massachusetts community of Belchertown may begin making students pay to ride the school buses.
--Springfield will have to lay off at least 300 and possibly as many as 800 teachers out of a faculty of 2,000 because of a severe budget crisis in that city. All but a few athletic programs have been cut, including soccer, ice hockey and swimming, school officials said.
--Some 8,000 college students--most of whom had planned to attend community colleges that serve the poorest areas of the state--will be turned away.
Higher education Chancellor Franklyn Jenifer said that despite a 7.7% tuition increase and steep hikes in student fees, the budget crisis has halted a push to advance the state's public college and university system into the nation's top rank.
Higher education budget cuts will translate into 1,900 canceled course sections for the 120,000 full-time students, Jenifer's staff has calculated.