POTENTIAL BUDGET CUTS WOULD HURT TEACHERS AND STUDENTS
Teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, fewer courses and less help for struggling students are some of the consequences if North Carolina's public school funding is cut by 5 or 10 percent, according to information released last week. The Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) required government agencies to identify budget cuts at these two levels in anticipation of the 2011-12 fiscal year. Department of Public Instruction Chief Finance Officer Philip Price submitted the Department's list of possible cuts to the OSBM this week.
NCDPI staff noted that the cuts identified to reach these levels are in addition to the 4 percent budget reductions that are an ongoing part of the state's public school budget. "In reality, the 5 percent cut would add up to a 9 percent cut when you consider the ongoing hole built in our schools' budgets. The 10 percent cut would become a 14 percent cut," said Price. "This is the third year that public school budgets have been cut." School districts are required to return a total of $304.7 million to the state in each budget year.
"At a time when everyone seems to believe that education and learning are keys to survival in the global economy, we cannot turn back the clock," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "North Carolina public schools received less from the state's General Fund in 2010-11 than in 2006-07, even though we now have at least 40,000 more students. These cuts would continue this under-funding. We have already reduced non-essential costs. Additional cuts will hit the classroom and hurt teachers and students."
Cutting 5 percent (a total of $701 million when the recurring hole is included) or 10 percent (a total of $1.1 billion when the recurring hole is included) is the equivalent of eliminating state funding for approximately 165 schools.
Although North Carolina is the sixth fastest growing state in the nation with a growing student population, the state ranks 42nd in the nation for the amount of money spent per student. Currently, nearly 1.5 million students are served in North Carolina's traditional and charter public schools. The state guarantees a free public education to all students who meet age and residency requirements under the North Carolina Constitution.
A complete list of the budget reductions identified and submitted by the NCDPI is attached. If all categories of reductions are added together, cuts would total 5 percent or 10 percent of the overall public school fund. Some categories were identified for more significant cuts than other categories in an attempt to do the least harm. Some key elements are:
- Reducing local school district Central Office administration by 5 percent ($5.4 million) or by 8 percent ($8 million). State support for local administration has declined from 55 percent to 47 percent of the total costs for central office administration since 2001 - before any additional cuts are made.
- Reducing the Department of Public Instruction by up to 9.2 percent. This reduction includes cuts to the Uniform Education Reporting System and Connectivity funds. The NCDPI has been cut every year since 2008. NCDPI has lost 87 positions in that time and the operating budget has been reduced by 26 percent, the largest cut of any state agency.
- Classroom teacher reductions of up to 5,313 positions. This would result in class sizes increasing at every grade.
- Teacher assistant reductions of up to 13,259 positions. At this level, teacher assistants would be funded only for kindergarten. Currently they are provided for grades K-3. School districts would continue to have the option of using teacher assistants in K-3 as needed.
- Assistant principals would be provided in lower numbers.
- Services for children with special needs and academically gifted children would be reduced. Services for children with special needs would be reduced by 3.4 percent or 4.2 percent, depending on the level of cuts imposed. Gifted students' services would be cut from 5- to 10 percent.
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.