PUBLIC SCHOOLS AT RISK UNDER GOVERNOR'S PROPOSED BUDGET
Under the Governor's proposed budget released Tuesday, North Carolina public schools are bearing the burden of balancing the state's budget, State Superintendent June Atkinson told local school superintendents today in a statewide Webinar. If approved as submitted, the Governor's budget would cut an additional $287 million from the Public School Fund bringing the total cuts to public education for 2010-11 to $1.2 billion.
"Public schools have received a smaller and smaller percentage of state funds since 1970," State Superintendent June Atkinson said. "I believe that North Carolinians want us to support public schools even in tough times. I have faith that the members of the General Assembly will find other ways of filling the budget hole without decreasing support for public schools."
In 2009-10, the public schools' $7.35 billion appropriation represented 35 percent of the state's overall General Fund budget. That's only two-thirds of the share that went to public schools in 1970. Education Week recently gave North Carolina an "F" on total spending for K-12 education and ranked the state 11th out of the 12 southeastern states in funding.
The Governor's proposed cuts for 2010-11 follow a $790.4 million reduction in 2009-10 and are on top of the $180.5 million in cuts for 2010-11 that were approved last year by the General Assembly as part of the State's two-year budget. Combined, those cuts total $960.7 million.
Atkinson also said that the NC Department of Public Instruction has taken the largest budget cut of any State agency. This despite increasing demands from state leadership for the Department to go after more competitive federal funding and provide more services on behalf of the State's students. "We have staff working with more than 700 schools – approximately one-fourth of all public schools in our state – and with six school districts intensively to assist them in turning around their schools' performances. This is on top of the many other basic support services we provide to local schools and districts."
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction assists local districts and schools by
- licensing teachers and ensuring that licenses are revoked when necessary;
- building the curriculum standards used in classrooms;
- providing professional development to teachers to ensure effectiveness in instruction;
- directing federal programs at the state level and helping local school districts qualify for federal funds; and
- collecting data – millions of pieces of data – on every school, student and educator for use in statewide school report cards, federal funds qualification, and program accountability.
Total administrative costs – NCDPI's budget, and State funding for local district central offices and for the administrators in the schools (principals and assistant principals) - require less than 7 percent of all State funds for public schools. Exclude principals and assistant principals and the percentage for administration drops to less than 2.5 percent.
"I don't think people understand that the vast majority – over 90 percent of the Public School Fund – is tied to salaries and benefits, which is why last year's cuts resulted in fewer teachers (5.44 percent drop), fewer school administrators (4.73 percent drop), fewer instructional support personnel, central office positions, non-certified staff and clerical staff," Atkinson said. "You can't cut the Public School Fund in any significant way and not impact the classroom."
Atkinson also expressed concern regarding what is facing public schools next year when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds end. "We will be facing a funding cliff that will easily exceed $1 billion more," she said.
"I'm amazed at what we've been able to accomplish despite declining resources, but everything has its limit and we've reached ours," Atkinson said.
For more information regarding the impact of the Governor's proposed budget cuts on public schools, please contact the NCDPI's Communications division at 919.807.3450.
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.