Impact of NC budget hits home: 2 school districts eliminate 9 teacher assistant jobs

From Staff Reports

The Daily Advance

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While Gov. Pat McCrory and state Republican lawmakers say the amount of money North Carolina will spend on kindergarten through 12th-grade education will go up this year, local school officials say they are preparing for budget cuts that will mean fewer teacher assistants in the classroom and less money for textbooks and other education materials.

Two local school districts have already reduced the number of teacher assistants for the 2013-14 school year as a result of their expectation of less state money. The Perquimans County Board of Education voted Tuesday morning to eliminate five teacher assistant positions while the Edenton-Chowan Board of Education voted Monday night to eliminate four teacher assistant positions.

Perquimans Schools Superintendent Dwayne Stallings said the school district had already anticipated cutting 6½ teacher positions this year, but had not planned on eliminating any teacher assistant positions.

The Perquimans schools will also see its funding of classroom materials cut to $52,548 — Perquimans had been planning on receiving about $107,000, based on student enrollment projections for the upcoming year. Textbook funding will also be reduced to $26,000.

“What’s happened in the past few years in North Carolina is we’ve had discretionary cuts,” Stallings said, referring to general funding reductions that allowed school districts to decide where to spend money to cover deficits. “But what’s happened now is they’re actually giving us line-item reductions. And one of those was teacher positions and teacher assistant positions.”

Facing a reduction in state funding of $831,385, Edenton-Chowan Schools officials last week discussed the possibility of cutting as many as 8½ teaching positions and eight teacher assistant positions. Because 7½ teacher positions had not been filled, however, the district faced having to lay off only one teacher. That prospect ended when a teacher expected to return next year left the district.

As for the teacher assistants, the school district was able to trim the number of lost positions in half through retirements and attrition.

“If there’s any bright spot, that’s it,” Edenton-Chowan Schools Superintendent Allan Smith said, referring to the fact that fewer jobs than anticipated will be lost.

Smith said the district also faces a 50 percent reduction in funding of classroom materials — it received $132,631 last year, versus $64,926 this year — and a 78 percent reduction in funding of textbooks.

“To say the proposed budget is a disappointment is an extreme understatement,” Smith said.

Cook: Funding went up

State Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, who represents seven counties in the northeastern part of the state, including Chowan and Perquimans, said he is surprised by the cuts school districts are preparing to make.

“The education budget went up,” Cook said, referring to the state’s $7.86 billion lawmakers appropriated for public schools next year. “The amount of money we put in education went up.”

State Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, also defended the amount lawmakers are spending on education. Steinburg, who represents the school districts in five area counties, said in a statement that the budget lawmakers approved increases K-12 spending by 2.1 percent when compared to what the schools actually spent in the two-year period from 2011-13. He also noted that overall, spending on all state education, both public schools and colleges, next year — $11.5 billion — is “more money ... than has ever spent on education in North Carolina.”

Gov. McCrory also said during a speech in Chapel Hill earlier this month that the budget will spend $23 million more on K-12 spending than last year.

But according to a story in The News & Observer of Raleigh, “the legislation specifies public schools will get $117 million less than what they would have if lawmakers changed nothing and accounted for increased enrollment and inflation.”

McCrory’s Office of State Budget and Management also told lawmakers earlier this year that it would cost $7.98 billion to keep public school education services at the same level as last year.

Atkinson 'worried’

Commenting on the budget late last month, state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said in a statement that she is “truly worried” about students for the first time in her 30 years in education.

“With this budget, North Carolina has moved away from its commitment to quality public schools,” Atkinson said. “I am disappointed for the children in our state who will have fewer educators and resources in their schools as a result of the General Assembly’s budget.”

Atkinson noted that “thousands of teacher and teacher assistant positions” are likely to be eliminated because of the budget.

State Rep. Annie Mobley, D-Hertford, also expressed concern about Republican lawmakers’ decision to spend $10 million this year funding private school tuition — the state’s new “Opportunity Scholarships” program — at the same time public school districts will be getting less money.

“Listening to both sides of the aisle, I’m pretty well convinced that there’s a move afoot to dismantle public education,” said Mobley, who represents part of Pasquotank County. “We should not cut away one, to fund the other. Public schools should be the first choice.”

Steinburg, however, said the Opportunity Scholarships will give children who are disabled or from low-income families the same opportunity to attend private school that children from wealthier families now have.

“It is part of North Carolina’s ongoing effort to create new, innovative programs so that kids with high potential and low opportunities do not fall through the cracks,” he said.

Eliminated positions

James Agar, business administrator for Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools, said his district is preparing for a $2.1 million cut in state funding, a reduction of $298,000 over last year’s funding. As a result, the district will lose 19½ teaching positions, 14 teacher assistant positions, one instructional support position and $4,000 in funds used for the English as a Second Language program. The district also will receive 78 percent less funding this year for text books and 50 percent less for classroom materials.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Schools Superintendent Linwood Williams said he plans to find a way to pay for the 34 teaching and teacher assistant positions. Currently, the school system has frozen new hires and is looking at moving teachers around to fill vacancies. The district is also considering sharing certain positions between schools and it may not refill some open positions. Elizabeth City-Pasquotank will also use funding earmarked for instructional materials and technology to pay for some of the eliminated positions.

Cuts hit Camden staff

Like Williams, Camden County Schools Superintendent Melvin Hawkins said he plans to fund his district’s teaching and teacher assistant positions that the state will not be paying for this year. Camden will lose funding for six teaching positions and four teacher assistant positions.

“We are going to absorb all of these through this year’s fund balance,” said Hawkins, referring to the school district’s savings account.

Camden schools also saw its funding for classroom materials cut nearly in half this year. The school district was expecting about $113,000 for the item, but is receiving $58,084. Textbook funding also took a hit; Camden will receive $98,000 less for school books this year.

To cover the cuts to textbook and classroom materials funding, Hawkins said the school system will likely have to depend on private donations. Parent-teacher groups at individual schools will also lend a hand with fundraising, he said.

“It’s not a pleasant picture,” Hawkins said. “I want to fight for public schools. Educators across the state do a fantastic job. Just give us the opportunity to be successful.”

Sholar 'appalled’

Currituck County Schools Superintendent Allison Sholar declined to comment specifically on how the state budget will affect the Currituck schools. But she criticized lawmakers’ move to end pay supplements for teachers with master’s or other advanced degrees if not earned by April 1.

“I am appalled by the message our legislators are sending to parents, students and educators in this state,” Sholar said in an email. “As usual, teachers are being asked to do more with less while being discouraged from strengthening their skills through advanced degrees for which they no longer will be compensated. If legislators value all of the children in this state, why are they attacking the best resources our children have which is our teachers? It’s a very sad day for North Carolina.”

Steinburg acknowledged the budget does end pay supplements for teachers who earn a master’s degree, but only if the advanced degree isn’t required for their job. He also noted that teachers already collecting the supplement or who earn their master’s degree before April 1 will still collect the additional pay.

The Daily Advance Staff Writer Rita Frankenberry, Chowan Herald Staff Writer Rebecca Bunch and The Perquimans Weekly News Editor Peter Williams contributed to this report.

Comments

This situation doesn't

This situation doesn't surprise me at all, lately the governors promise one thing but in fact the reality is a whole different story. Hopefully those money will eventually be used for educational purposes, even if many students have found a way to pay less for educational needs a teacher's presence is more than necessary, his guidance is very important.

Eliminated Positions

Gave more money!?! Where?

Money isn't the problem

With our education system. Poor parenting and Bush's "No child left behind" polices are. Why are 6th graders at River Road playing on their IPods and IPhones for 2 hours during the school day? When this question was posed to a Teacher she said our kids are allowed to play on them while Teachers are trying to "catch up" other students. Why are some 6th graders pulled out of class to take tests with a Teachers help, while others have to take the tests themselves? Because they CAN'T READ! They pass the tests though, because the questions are read to them and they memorized the answers while in class. Why can't our 6th graders read? Because the school system just passes them along from grade to grade and when they graduate? What happens to them then? They go to COA and have to take remedial reading and math if they go to College at all. Talk to any professor at COA, they know what's going on in our public schools and not one of them, I have spoken to, claims the lack of funding is the problem. While I am proud of my child being on the Honor Roll as well as her numerous SAT awards, she's going to need a lot more than our public schools are offering to get into a good college. Our Honor Roll students are just average students when you compare them to the rest of the nation. We are failing them. A child should not have to go to school all day and then come home and have her education supplemented just so she can get into a decent college. Maybe it's time to rethink public education and give parents a choice of where they send their children to school.

For the sake of the taxpayer

schools should be about education of the essential subjects. They are mini colleges now. If there is not a need to teach the essential subjects in four years, reduce the number of high school years. Let the students move to college earlier where they can go down the specialized career pathways. I have concern for teacher assistants losing jobs on a personal level; losing a job is serious but, I am not convinced the students need teacher assistants. There are other positions the students probably don't depend on but there again the 800 pound elephant in the room is that a lost position means a person without a job. Why is it that with all the increased money put into education over the years the student education levels aren't improving?

In answer to your last

In answer to your last question, I think the students' have shown some general improvement, but in order for students to be truly successful, they need supportive parents who enforce discipline--and who value education--at home. That to me is the "800 pound elephant" that always seems to be missing in these discussions. A child who grows up in front of a TV set or just running the streets isn't getting the proper guidance or care the other 16 hours a day he or she is not in school. Still the teachers and the educational system always seem to be blamed for the parents' failures.

Funding

A statement in this article regarding funding cuts for classroom materials/books can be misleading. The amount the school districts receive is based on the previous year's enrollment and not what is projected. It's been this way for a long time. Further, in the past school districts have had to return at the end of the year 20% of what the state gives them. This year the school districts get to keep the 20%. On top of that you have the requirements set up by the Federal Government and Common Core and how that financially effects the school districts.

CUT EDUCATION BUT LET THE

CUT EDUCATION BUT LET THE STATE HAVE 10 MEN FILLING ONE 1 POTHOLE AND 3 HOLDING A STOP/SLOW SIGN. THIS IS SAD AND SAYS A LOT ABOUT OUR PRIORITIES AS A SOCIETY.NOT SAYING ROAD WORK DOESN'T NEED TO BE DONE BUT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE STANDING AROUND IS RIDICULOUS! THE SAD PART...MANY OF THEM MAKE MORE THAN OUR TEACHERS!CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE AND THESE CUTS MAKE OUR FUTURE LOOK BLEAK.

Why

is Cook "surprised"? Educators told the Legislature this would happen.

You ain't seen nothing yet.

You ain't seen nothing yet. Wait til next year when it will be cut again.

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