This is the saddest meeting I have attended. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education met Tuesday, June 2, to discuss the effects the Senate budget and the Governor's budget would have on education. Some of those points are listed below, followed by comments from those involved in education. Unless a remark is in " " please consider it paraphrased. Anything in ( ) is my remark/interjection.
I especially want to share the repeated pleas from those working in our education system. I even heard the phrase, Please don't do this to us. Cuts to education in NC have gone beyond 'bare bones' and into the category of 'mortal wound.' This has to stop. Between budget cuts, position cuts, the expanse of charters and the addition of vouchers, NC's public schools are on their death bed. I hope all of you are planning to attend the next Moral Monday that will focus on education. All of you.
The Senate budget has a more drastic cut in the number of teacher assistants. Additional resources will be needed to fully fund Read To Achieve (RTA). (No mention of where those funds were to come from) It shows a 30% cut to DPI, allowing the department to decide where those cuts are to come from. Eliminates the Teaching Fellow program, allowing just enough money to finish it up this coming year.
The Governor’s budget has local school boards taking financial responsibility for new workman’s comp insurance plans and all new claims. No cuts to DPI.
Regarding Community Colleges:
The Gov’s budget contains Tuition relief for non-resident vets, starting this coming fall. The Senate’s budget directs the schools to apply to the Federal Yellow Ribbon reserve funds to cover this.
There will be a fifty cent (.50) per tuition hour increase in tuition fees.
The Gov’s plan cuts workman’s comp support and requires the colleges to cover the cost of this insurance themselves. Is not mentioned in the Senate budget.
Regarding the UNC System:
There are reductions in the budget for utilities costs. (Really!)
The gov’s budget does away with the Coastal Studies Institute.
Morehead scholarships will now pay resident rate tuition even if the student is not a resident (Does not indicate if NCGA is forgiving the difference or if they want the out of state student to make up the difference. This may be in the fine print of the actual budget but was not brought up to the committee.).
Presentations from interested parties.
From State Board of Education, Bill Cobey.
He says he is here to “plead our case.” He says their strategic plan is aligned with requirements levied upon them by the NCGA. He keeps hearing stories that the DPI has grown enormously and that that is just not the case. He presents the panelists with a chart from the 1990s, at a time when the department cut back dramatically and says that other than instances when another government office --and its personnel-- were given over to them, they have simply not grown substantially since the mid-1990s. He wants that clarified. He points out that only 4 of the 7 floors of the Ed department’s Pink Palace on Wilmington Street are used by DPI. The other floors are used by the Commerce Dept.
He says they have one staff person to cover PE for all 2500 public and charter schools.
One for health education.
Five for science ed.
22 for curriculum, about 2 per subject area.
This is a Bare bones staff.
NCGA has demanded DPI go to all digital textbooks, implying that they want each school to buy their own, but he reminds them that if DPI purchases them they get a bulk discount. He tells them the office of Management and Budget has gone through their finances with a fine tooth comb and begs, “Please do not go along with a 30% cut to this agency! It made me feel as if the Senate is treating us like the children of Israel, wanting us to make brick without straw. Please don’t do this.”
Dr. June Atkinson, Department of Public Instruction.
“All our teachers need raises.” They need textbooks, digital resources, instructional materials. The lower grades need assistants. They need the infrastructure our central office provides. NC cannot compete with our neighbors without a pay raise.
Since 2008, they have grown by 33,000 students and their financial support has dropped by $32 million. By next year they will have grown by 43,000 students.
They have 2500 FEWER teaching positions, 168 fewer assistant principals, less staff development, fewer assistants, fewer textbooks, less supplies.
NCGA has legislated 50 reports they require from DPI, and this can be cut.
Dr. Scott Ralls, Community Colleges
Forcing Community colleges to pay for their own workman’s comp insurance has a tremendous impact on their budgets, and will cost just one school $800,000. They have dropped to 15th out of 16 places in teacher salaries, compared to our neighboring states. “Help us stop bleeding.”
President Tom Ross, UNC system
Asks that NCGA allow UNC as much flexibility in handling their budget as possible as they are a complex organization with revenue from many different sources. He points out that tuition and state money is all they really have. The grant money they get is dedicated to particular useage and cannot be transferred to cover other costs.
He says, We are in the talent business. To do so, we need the best talent producers, and that is instructors. “Please treat our folks fairly.” They need real flexibility in salaries in order to keep and attract the best teachers possible--if they lose a professor who has grants, they lose the grant, too, as well as the positions covered by the grant money.
Asks, please allow us to charge in-state tuition for veterans.
Hope Williams, President of the Independent Colleges.
There are 36 independent colleges across the state. In the past, 10% of lottery funds was dedicated to scholarship funds. The gov’s budget moves this to recurring funds, but the Senate budget cuts the fund “even though it has already been promised to students for next year.” If it is not put back into the Senate budget, they will have to contact these students and tell them they do not have scholarships after all!!
At this point I had to leave this hearing to get to the next hearing and missed Art Pope popping in to make his own remarks. I'm sorry I missed that.