Latest projections forecast layoffs of 120 Union County teachers
If current state projections hold, Union County Public Schools will be forced to lay off 120 teachers before the 2011 school year, as part of a larger budget-cutting effort.
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction released that information Nov. 22, as the state agency struggles to find $1 billion in cuts before July 1.
All total, the Union County school district would suffer $14.3 million in cuts, with the elimination of 120 teacher and 20 instructional-support positions. The district will decide where to make the cuts.
Additionally, class sizes in most Union County schools would increase if the state budget is cut as projected. The size of all classes from kindergarten through third grade would increase by one student, while grades four through six would increase by two students. Ninth-grade classes, according to the state projections, are supposed to increase by 1.5 students.
“The numbers are very scary,” newly elected Union County School Board member Marce Savage said. “I’m looking to get more information on the subject before we as a board meet with our (legislative) representatives Dec. 16.”
The board is set to have a breakfast meeting with newly elected State Sen. Tommy Tucker and Rep. Craig Horn on Dec. 16, to discuss any potential options. School board members say they’re working to reduce the impact on the classroom as much as possible.
“We will be working hard to come up with ways to absorb these cuts,” board member David Scholl said. “We got dealt a hand, and we’ve got to play it. We can complain, or we can focus on how to get the most bang for the buck.”
The cuts come as a request from the Office of State Budget and Management, which ordered all state agencies to identify budget cuts leading up to the new fiscal year taking effect July 1, 2011. These cuts come on top of 4 percent the districts were told to cut previously.
Department of Public Instruction Chief Finance Officer Philip Price painted a grim picture in submitting the list of cuts.
“In reality, the 5 percent cut would add up to a 9 percent cut when you consider the ongoing hole built in our schools’ budgets,” Price said. “This is the third year that public school budgets have been cut.” School districts have returned $304.7 million to the state in each budget year for the past three years, Price said.
To put things in perspective, Price said, the $1.1 billion cut requested is the equivalent of eliminating state funding for 165 schools.
The move is just the latest in a series of financial hits Union County Public Schools has taken in recent months. In July, the state sliced funding the district expected to receive from the lottery. Union County had $5.9 million in lottery money allocated in the governor’s original version of the current year’s budget, which was released in April and used by Union County to figure its own budget. The General Assembly slashed the allocation, and Union’s portion dropped to $3.1 million.
“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,” State Superintendent June Atkinson said in a statement. “North Carolina public schools received less from the state’s General Fund in 2010-11 than in 2006-07, even though we now have at least 40, 000 more students. These cuts would continue this under-funding. We have already reduced non-essential costs. Additional cuts will hit the classroom and hurt teachers and students.”
A final decision on state funding won’t come until lawmakers approve the budget, in June at the earliest.