By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
The North Carolina General Assembly passed a $20.6 billion budget on Wednesday that includes $500,000,000 in cuts to education.
“Our administrative Executive Cabinet is sorting through budgetary details and meeting with Department of Public Instruction officials on Thursday at a statewide meeting,” said ECPS Superintendent John Farrelly. “Official allotment changes will be released by NCDPI within two weeks. When those allotments are provided, we will have a clear picture of local financial impacts. ECPS is ready to start the new school year providing the best instructional programs in Edgecombe County regardless of the financial challenges ahead of us.”
The cuts to education include:
$286 million in cuts this year and $246 million next year in funding for classroom teachers by revising teacher-student ratios.
A reduction in the allotment of teacher assistants, lowering the ratio of teacher assistants to students to 1:17 in kindergarten and first grade. The reduction will translate to approximately 3,800 teacher assistant jobs. Funding will focus on kindergarten and first grade, rather than on kindergarten through third grade.
A reduction in funding for school bus replacement by $29.8 million this year and $39.1 million next year.
Stripping the salary boost for teachers with advanced degrees beginning next year.
Phasing out teacher tenure by 2018.
Providing no pay raises for teachers, but providing them five additional vacation days annually.
The estimated impact of the budget on NCDPI’s allotment to ECPS for the 2013-2014 budget year is 24 positions and $748,863, according to the conference budget proposal.
“I think it’s the worst thing that has ever happened in my lifetime – cutting education like that,” said Evelyn Wilson, vice-chair of the Edgecombe County Board of Education and educator since 1964. “Every elected official ought to have the interest of education at the top.”
Ronnie Daughtry, a retired Tarboro schoolteacher/ administrator with 39 years of experience, agreed with Wilson.
“I think it’s the worst thing that was ever done in North Carolina education. They will regret it,” he said. “I don’t get the feeling that teachers are appreciated any more and I think that’s really a shame.”
Daughtry is worried about the salary of teachers in the state. State Superintendent June Atkinson reported in June that North Carolina’s teacher salaries rank 46th in the nation.
“Teachers haven’t had proper raises in quite a while,” Daughtry said. “People will probably leave here and teach in Virginia.”
Daughtry also has concerns about the state doing away with teacher tenure and the salary increase for teachers with advanced degrees. He believes fewer teachers will pursue advanced degrees because of the lack of incentives.
“If there were no incentives to do better, then why would you do it?” Daughtry asked. “When I was a teacher, I worked for three years to get my master’s. I worked really hard, but that extra money came in really handy.”
Wilson’s main concern about the budget is the impact to student instruction.
“We may have increased classroom sizes. We need to reduce class sizes,” she said. Additionally, Wilson said the reduction in the number of teacher assistants would force teachers to be “much smarter in planning” and be more creative in the types of techniques they use to educate children.
The budget cuts have made Wilson even more determined to advocate for the education and achievement of Edgecombe County students.
“We’re not going to throw up our hands. We’re going to work harder,” Wilson said. “We’re going to show them that even though they’re cutting the budget, we still are producing students that are first class…and our students can compete with any other students.”