SUBCOMMITTEE EDUCATION BUDGET WOULD CUT PUBLIC SCHOOLS; TURN BACK PROGRESS
Deep public schools cuts totaling nearly $1 billion announced today as part of the House Appropriations Education Subcommittee's budget would push the state's public schools backward and closer to the bottom of the nation in per pupil funding, according to State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison and State Superintendent June Atkinson.
Harrison said that the State Board of Education had expected cuts during this very difficult fiscal time, but that they had held out hope that the cuts would not move the state backward.
"This budget would push our schools to a level of very bare-bones opportunities for students and for educational innovation," Harrison said. "I am concerned for local superintendents who will have to find ways to meet students" educational needs with fewer school-based staff, without appropriate diagnostic tools for students and with limits regarding where they can make cuts to meet the state's $305 million "discretionary" cut that local schools are already required to make.
The 8.8 percent cut to public schools is in addition to the existing $305 million discretionary cut built into the recurring budget. Together, these cuts would total a 13.28 percent or a nearly $1 billion cut for public schools in 2011-12. Because of limits to what school districts are allowed to cut by the General Assembly under proposed special provisions, this leaves districts with few choices about where to make cuts to reach their spending reduction targets. This is the third consecutive year of public school budget cuts although student enrollment continues to grow.
As anticipated, the budget presented today would continue larger class sizes in grades 4-12; would cut personnel who support students and teachers; would end teacher assistants in second and third grades; and would trim assistant principals by one-fifth.
The budget also would eliminate funds for student diagnostics, a key tool for teachers to address student-learning problems as soon as they arise. The proposed budget would move the successful More at Four education program for disadvantaged 4-year-olds from the education arena to the Department of Health and Human Services. Transportation funds, already short by nearly $18 million because of increasing fuel prices, would take an additional $20 million hit. The discretionary reduction would be increased by nearly $42 million in 2011-12 and increased again by $106 million in 2012-13.
"This budget positions North Carolina schools to operate in only the most limited fashion," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "Taken together, all of these cuts would severely limit what local schools will be able to offer to students and will jeopardize more than 25 years of progress in our state."
The budget also includes a 25.58 percent cut to the NC Department of Public Instruction, just as the Department has added significant duties and responsibilities including management of the state's competitive Race to the Top federal grant, intervening in 213 low-performing schools and 12 school districts, managing the residential schools for the blind and deaf that were once managed by the NC Department of Health and Human Services, and providing support and oversight to charter public schools, a group that is expected to grow significantly in coming years. The cuts would completely eliminate the Teacher Academy and the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching. Cuts of this magnitude would alter the services provided by NCDPI to local school districts, forcing districts to assume some of these duties themselves.
Harrison, who served for 18 years as a local school superintendent in North Carolina before becoming State Board of Education Chairman, said that his district had depended on many of the services provided by NCDPI, including teacher licensure, school business and information technology support and curriculum development. "But once I came to Raleigh and saw first-hand the complexities of running a statewide system of public schools, I recognized how important the services of the Department of Public Instruction were to small and medium-sized school districts in our state."
Currently, North Carolina ranks 46th in per pupil funding for public schools and 45th in teacher pay. The two are closely linked because teacher pay is a large percentage of the cost of running public schools. Student performance, in fact, outpaces funding rankings for North Carolina schools. North Carolina ranks 37th in SAT scores; 12th in ACT scores; and 12th in fourth grade mathematics, 31st in 4th grade reading, 26th in 8th grade math, 38th in 8th grade reading, all according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
News editors: Please see the following news release from the NC State Board of Education and NC Department of Public Instruction. If you need to schedule interviews or need additional information on this, please reply to this email or contact the NC DPI Communications office at 919.807.3469 (Vanessa Jeter); or 919.807.3475 (Lynda Fuller). Additional budget-related information resources also are online at www.ncpublicschools.org under the 2011-13 Biennial Budget link.
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.