STATE SUPERINTENDENT AND EDUCATION LEADERS
CALL ON LAWMAKERS
TO FUND SCHOOLS FIRST
State Superintendent June Atkinson today was joined by state education leaders at a news conference to call on North Carolina lawmakers to stand firm on funding public schools first and to recognize the deep and abiding costs of short-changing North Carolina children's education.
"We call on our state's lawmakers to be careful and thoughtful in their work to balance our schools' needs and our state's resources," Atkinson said. "While we wait for full economic recovery, we cannot put children on hold. That's why we need to fund schools first," Atkinson said.
Atkinson was joined by Bill McNeal, executive director of the NC Association of School Administrators, Sheri Strickland, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, Wendell Hall, president of the NC School Boards Association, and Debra Horton, executive director of the NCPTA.
These education leaders highlighted the fact that the Senate budget did not worsen the funding cliff that public schools will face in 2011-12 when federal stabilization funds end. At that time, public schools will face a sobering funding cut – or cliff – of $900 million. How the loss of these federal dollars will impact districts varies. In the case of Wake County Public Schools, $85.6 million in funding will be lost or the equivalent of 1,700 teachers in addition to what has already been cut by that school district. (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding loss by district is available online at www.ncpublicschools.org/fbs under What's New.) If North Carolina cannot find the means to fill in the funds from the federal stabilization dollars, this will mean an even more debilitating level of cuts in 2012.
There are positives in the Senate budget, including the additional flexibility tools local school district leaders can use to make decisions about funding cuts at the local level. The Senate budget also left the discretionary reduction – also known as a negative reserve or flexibility adjustment – at the $304 million level already written in the 2010-11 budget rather than increasing it. The flexibility adjustment is a requirement for local school districts to return a specific amount of state dollars as a part of the budget. State education leaders noted that an increase in this required return likely would result in teacher cuts and larger class sizes in grades four through 12.
The state House is currently deliberating its budget and is expected to release its budget plan this week.
Education leaders did note that some cuts that remain on the table would be detrimental to services that schools and district need. For example, the NC Department of Public Instruction has already taken an 8 percent cut in its 2009-10 budget, and the 2010-11 budget proposals would bring that to a 24 percent cut to the Department's budget – a cut larger than any other state agency's. These cuts are proposed while the NCDPI is being required to meet new and increasing work expectations from the federal and state levels.
NCDPI staff members prepare and license teachers and administrators; develop the subjects and course content taught in classrooms; create the assessments and accountability models used to evaluate school and district success; administer school transportation, child nutrition services, and programs that support special education, English language learners and early childhood education; monitor federal program implementation at the school and district level; lead school and district improvement efforts; accumulate, evaluate and publish public education data and information; and administer dozens of programs including the North Carolina Virtual Public School, Learn and Earn, Title I, IDEA, and More at Four.
For more information about the public schools budget, please go to www.ncpublicschools.org/fbs and look under What's New. There are a number of helpful links including side-by-side budget comparisons and a Budget toolkit. Contact the NCDPI Communications division at 919.807.3450 with other questions.
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.