North Carolina’s State Board of Education had to make legislative cuts to meet legislature’s $3.2 million demand as part of a two-year reduction for the state’s top education bureaucracy.
Members had already passed down $2.5 million in legislative cuts in late July by ordering layoffs and reducing operations which are likely to impact professional development and support systems of the state’s poor and low-performing districts.
The budget decision had already removed seven filled and eight vacant positions within the Department of Public Instruction. Pay cuts are also to be expected for DPI instructional coaches working with state teachers, changing their 12-month contracts to 10-month contracts. It also reduced services from the School Transformation and Educator Effectiveness Division– both programs which aim to help teachers implement new skills and prepare more effectively for the classroom. Any additional cuts that are to be made are likely to mean more job losses within the agency.
Chairman of the State Board of Education Bob Cobey is a week away from voting a second round of budget cuts in order to meet the $700,000 deficit and fulfill the $3.2 million legislature demand. In July, Cobey stated that the remaining reductions and cuts will be even harder to make.
According to Bill Ball of NC Policy Watch, Cobey stated “In the first round, we had (offices) that were willing to step forward. Now we’re having to ask those who don’t feel like they have anything to give to bring forth cuts. That makes it more difficult.” Ball also reports that operational reductions will trim cash from the agency’s professional development, contractual services, trips, dues and subscriptions, benefits, equipment and transportation. Cobey and board members have highlighted the importance of retaining the agency’s staff during the reduction process, but the board chair stated that leaders may have to continue to cut positions.
Cobey has also stated that next year’s cuts will most likely do more damage, as lawmakers throw in an additional $7.3 million cut, or a 13.9 percent cut of the department’s operating funds for 2018-2019. Cobey and other board members hope to appeal to the General Assembly and hold off next year’s demands, although there has been no sign that lawmakers intend to change their minds.
As the Board of Education is struggling to find areas to apply these cuts and reductions, they are also limited by the General Assembly to apply these cuts in certain areas. The General Assembly does not allow the Board to apply cuts and reductions to the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction or any other GOP favored initiatives, or any programs such as Teach for America and Innovative School District programs. These programs have been deemed controversial since it turns low-performing public schools into a for-profit operation.
Cobey has shown the most concern for the impact of these cuts in North Carolina’s low-income and low-performing school districts, stating in an article with NC Policy Watch, “we’re going to be able to help the low-achieving schools in the district, but we don’t have the capacity we once had. You hate to lose that capacity.”