State cuts may impact local schools

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Roanoke-Chowan area classrooms, including this one at Hertford County High School, may feel the pinch of potential state budget cuts.

RALEIGH – Potential budget cuts at the state level could have a major local impact on public schools.

Last week, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released figures that were submitted to the Office of State Budget and Management listing possible cuts of five and 10 percent from school districts.

According to DPI, teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, fewer courses and less help for students will be the consequences if the school funding is cut by five or 10 percent.

“At a time when everyone seems to believe that education and learning are keys to survival in the global economy, we cannot turn back the clock,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson. “North Carolina public schools received less from the state’s general fund in 2010-11 than in 2006-07, even though we now have a least 40,000 more students.

“These cuts would continue this under-funding,” she added. “We have already reduced non-essential costs. Additional cuts will hit the classroom and hurt teachers and students.”

Staff from NCDPI noted that the cuts identified to reach the five or 10 percent level are in addition to the four percent budget reductions that are an ongoing part of the state’s public school budget.

“In reality, the five percent cut would add up to a nine percent cut when you consider the on-going hole built in our schools’ budget,” said DPI Chief Finance Officer Phillip Price. “The 10 percent cut would become a 14 percent cut. This is the third year that public school budgets have been cut.”

According to the information released by officials with DPI, cutting five percent, which would be a total of $701 million when the recurring hole is included, or 10 percent, $1.1 billion with the hole included, would be the equivalent of eliminating funding for nearly 165 schools.

North Carolina is the sixth fastest growing state in the nation with student population, but currently ranks 42nd in the nation on per-pupil spending.

While some of the cuts would be absorbed by the NC Department of Public Instruction, major cuts could also come to the local school districts.

If a five percent cut were passed, Bertie County Schools and Hertford County Public Schools would each lose 8.5 classroom positions for the 2011-12 academic year at a cost of $467,908 for each district.

Gates County would be cut by 5.5 teacher positions or $302,764 and Northampton County would be reduced by seven classroom positions or $385,336.

Other regional schools would lose positions in the same range, including Chowan County (6.5), Camden County (5.5), Halifax County (11), Roanoke Rapids City Schools (7), Weldon City Schools (3) and Martin County Schools (12).

North Carolina funds teachers by allotment, meaning the number of teachers is determined by the amount of funding provided in that line item of the budget. That is why the funding allotments would cut teacher positions.

A 10 percent reduction would mean Hertford County would lose 11 teachers ($605,528) and Bertie County would suffer 10 losses in the classroom ($550,480). Northampton’s loss would increase to 8.5 or $467,908 and Gates County would lose $357,812 or 6.5 classroom positions.

With 10 percent reductions, neighboring counties would lose additional positions as well including Chowan County (8), Camden County (7), Halifax County (13.5), Roanoke Rapids City Schools (10), Weldon City Schools (4) and Martin County Schools (15).

While being a major part of the cuts to the local district, teachers will not be the only ones suffering if the 2011-12 state budget passes on significant education cuts.

Instructional support positions would be reduced in each of the counties as well at a rate of two for Bertie and Hertford counties and one for Gates and Northampton counties under the five percent cuts. The 10 percent cuts would not change the cuts for Bertie, Hertford or Gates counties, but would change Northampton’s losses to two.

The number of months paid for assistant principal positions would also be reduced, meaning the possibility of cuts in the number of assistant principals in each of the local counties.

The five percent reductions would see Bertie and Hertford counties suffer the loss of five months of employment for assistant principals, Northampton four months and Gates County three months.

In the 10 percent reduction scenario, the number for Bertie and Hertford counties would jump to eight months, with six for Northampton and four for Gates County Schools.

The major losses, however, would come in the teacher assistant positions. With a five percent reduction, teacher assistants would be eliminated at grade three and placed in only half of second grade classrooms.

That would mean Hertford County would be cut $429,890, Bertie County would lose $390,294 in funding, Gates County would lose $227,388 and Northampton County $377,850 for teacher assistants.

A 10 percent cut would mean teacher assistants would be eliminated in all classrooms except kindergarten.

Those cuts would mean the districts would lose even more in teacher assistant funding. The totals would be: Hertford County ($888, 061), Bertie County ($722,983), Northampton County ($702,530) and Gates County ($425,364).

The total cost in cuts, should the North Carolina General Assembly slice education funding, would be in the millions of dollars in the Roanoke-Chowan region.

Hertford County would lose $1.099 million with just a five percent cut and that number would jump to $1.7 million with a 10 percent reduction. Bertie stands to lose $1.05 million with a five percent cut and $1.5 million at 10 percent.

Northampton’s losses will be $885,202 with a five percent cut and will move over the million dollar mark ($1.38 million) with a 10 percent decrease.

Gates County would be cut $634, 257 with a five percent state reduction and $910,932 with a 10 percent cut.

Other regional cuts that would be over the $1 million mark with a five percent cut would be Beaufort County ($2.5 million), Currituck County ($1.3 million), Dare County ($1.7 million), Halifax County ($1.4 million), Roanoke Rapids City Schools ($1 million) and Martin County ($1.4 million).

Next: R-C area educational leaders react to possible state budget cuts.