Due to budget reduction demands from the N.C. General Assembly, the N.C. State Board of Education voted on Tuesday July 25 to cut $2.5 billion from their budget.
This cut, which the first in a series of budget cuts, will primarily impact low performing, poor or rural school districts. These districts heavily rely on the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for support, especially in teacher training and school performance transformation– two things that were focused on in the budget cuts.
“Hopefully the districts can pick up any slack that is produced by this reduction,” said Bill Cobey, chairman for the State Board of Education. “We’re further reducing the service to the districts. Hopefully you won’t see any huge impact any place, but there’s going to be marginal impact in certain places across the state. And we’re going to try our best to mitigate that.”
The budget cuts come after years of fire from the public due to the state’s ranking in education. In 2016, N.C. was ranked 41st in the nation for average teacher pay and in 2015, ranked 34th in the nation for performance. Currently, the budget is $50 million, labeling NC the 44th state when ranking on most spending on education to least.
“We already have more work than we can do and the legislature continues to give us more work to do and with fewer employees, it becomes more and more difficult,” Cobey said. “I am all about efficiency but there are limits.”
Effects of the budget cuts will be seen in various ways in the coming year. Personnel cuts will take away from divisions that improve teacher effectiveness, as well as those that direct school transformation. This includes teacher training, as salary cuts will be made for 19 professionals who work with teachers in order to help prepare them for the classroom. There will also be $865,168 in operating reductions, which includes maintenance of equipment and school supplies.
“Educators are often digging into their own pockets to stock their classrooms with basic supplies,” said Gary Chapman, the executive vice president for the national network of Communities in Schools. “Increasingly, it’s also including items that teachers themselves need to do their jobs, like cleaning supplies, trash bags, and poster boards.”
Despite the General Assembly’s demands to cut the State Board of Education’s budget, they have set aside $700,000 for Republican state Superintendent Mark Johnson to hire 10 new employees. They have also allowed Johnson a budget of $300,000 for legal expenses in his lawsuit against the State Board of Education, which is over control of N.C’s public school system. At the same time, the General Assembly has barred the State Board from using taxpayer money to fund the same lawsuit.
“The General Assembly is clearly frustrated with the lack of accountability of the State Board of Education, and I am too,” Johnson said in the statement. “The culture of non-accountability created by the State Board is one of the reasons I sought funding for a top-to-bottom, third-party review of DPI.”
More budget slashes are expected to be made in the coming months, taking the $2.5 billion cuts to $3.2 billion. The General Assembly is also requiring that the State Board of Education cut $7.2 billion more in the coming year.