Gov. Bev Perdue and I are fighting to increase our investment in North Carolina’s schools. “It’s the right thing to do for our children and it’s also one of the most important things we can do to create jobs.” I urge you to call your state representative and state senator and urge them to invest more resources in North Carolina schools. If you aren’t sure who your representative or senator is, you can use this tool.
The General Assembly’s budget cut 5.8% (more than $459 million) from K-12 schools. After their budget, there are 915 fewer teachers than there were last year, more than 2,000 fewer teacher assistants than there were last year, and nearly 5,000 fewer overall jobs in education. Meanwhile, the number of students in our schools continues to grow.
State lawmakers are preparing to head back to the General Assembly to convene on Sunday, November 27th. Given the current state of the economy, it will be extremely interesting to learn how the State legislature plans on balancing the budget for year 2012-2013. Last time, they closed the yawning $2.5 billion deficit by making massive spending cuts without raising taxes at all. Planned Parenthood fell under the ax; so did about $350 million in public education funding.
As mentioned before, Planned Parenthood is still going strong despite the hit to its budget. Schools have not fared as well over the past year. While House and Senate leaders assured the public that every teaching and teaching assistant position was paid for, Department of Public Instruction data shows that around 1800 K-12 teachers and teaching assistants lost their jobs in the 2011-2012 year, with over 4000 positions being eliminated overall (i.e. vacant positions that will no longer be filled). As there are 2,161 schools total in NC (elementary schools + middle schools + high schools), it’s almost as if every single school lost one teacher or teaching assistant (actually 0.83 per school, but I choose to round up). The data might have been a bit worse, but local school districts were able to dredge up a bit of leftover federal recovery money. None of that money remains.
Why is the education budget not held sacred? I think it’s safe to assume that public school enrollment is not experiencing a sharp decline. And we all agree that more students plus fewer teachers equals a decrease in the quality of education that the state can offer. The domino effect continues: a poor-quality school system does not attract high-quality workers looking for a place to raise their kids, thus businesses looking to hire high-quality workers are also repelled, which leads to less revenue for the state. And probably more cuts to education. Economic effects aside, I want my future kids to have access to an even better education than mine; what parent doesn’t? What goes through a legislator’s head when he or she votes to cut education spending?
If America is to have any hope of regaining its role as the economic leader of the free world, it had better have the most intelligent children in the free world. I understand that times are tough and cuts must be made, but please let’s employ some foresight, NC lawmakers. Never touch the education budget unless you mean to increase it. I’d like to see it increased this time around, and I’ll gladly pay an extra dollar or two on my taxes.