STATE SUPERINTENDENT JUNE ATKINSON CALLS ON
NORTH CAROLINA TO "FUND SCHOOLS FIRST"
State Superintendent June Atkinson called on legislators to "Fund Schools First" at a news conference today at the NCPTA. The event was organized by the NCPTA and included leaders from the NC Association of Educators and other advocacy groups.
"North Carolina public schools are the backbone of this state's economic future," Atkinson said. "If we fail to meet the needs of the students today – we fail not just those students but our communities' and our state's future health."
Recognizing that these are unusual times and that money is very tight in North Carolina, Atkinson noted that last year for the first time in recent memory, fewer teachers were paid out of state funds (81,746 versus 86,447 in the prior year, a 5.44 percent drop). The state funded fewer school administrators (3,965 versus 4,162, a 4.73 percent drop) and fewer instructional support positions, fewer central office positions, fewer teacher assistants, half of the clerical support staff of the year before, and one-third fewer noncertified staff.
North Carolina's student population did dip slightly (less than 1 percent) in 2009-10 because of a change in the cut-off date for kindergarten enrollment. In fall 2010, these numbers are expected to bounce back.
Atkinson also noted that nearly all state money provided for public schools goes into direct support for instructional programs for students. All administration costs – the Department of Public Instruction's total budget, the total state funding for central offices in local school systems, and the administrators in the schools (principals and assistant principals) totals less than 7 percent of all state funds for public schools. If principals and assistant principals are excluded from that calculation, the percentage for administration of public schools in North Carolina is less than 2.5 percent.
The 2010-11 state public school budget will put local superintendents in the position of making very difficult decisions. The budget includes a major hole (almost 4 percent) that requires local schools to make decisions on cuts in addition to state and local ones. Also, in 2011, the federal stabilization funds that have helped local districts over the past year will end.
Atkinson called on the state's leaders to prepare for the end of federal stimulus money now and to decide the state's priorities directly rather than implementing piecemeal cuts that cannot be sustained for the long term.
"It will take years for North Carolina and other states to bounce back from this recession," she said. "We all know that. While we wait for recovery, we cannot wait to fund our schools. Fund schools first."
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.