The looming 8 million dollar reduction in the school budget supports a complete disregard for our community with a lack of sagacity towards public education. When our family was relocated from New York 5 years ago we chose Union County because of the schools, not because of the low taxes. We “bought” the best school district that we felt the Charlotte area had to offer, and that was Union County. It is unfortunate that the school budget is in the hands of a few who appear to not place the same value on education.
As a whole North Carolina is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to money spent on education with a ranking of 44th in the nation. Despite this fact, Union County schools has proved to rise above this statistic. Within the state, Union County schools underspent the majority of school districts with a per pupil expenditure of 7,718 during the 2009-2010 school year, yet received the highest ranking for educational productivity. In other words we do more with less, an honorable distinction. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we are willing to continually gamble with the educational future of our children.
Clearly, budget cuts of this magnitude will have grave consequences on our schools. There is only so far a dollar can stretch. The proposed impact of this budget cut to our schools will involve reductions in expenditures for materials and supplies, a loss of teacher positions, increased class size, short fallings in special and gifted education with a cumulative negative consequence on quality programs and education. With these types of cuts there will be clear ramifications in educational outcomes. Studies have consistently sited class size reduction as having a positive effect on academic performance especially in the elementary years. For minority students the impact is even more substantial. When material and supplies are cut parents and teachers are the recipients of making ends meet. For those parents who do not have the financial means their children will just do without. And our teachers who are already grossly underpaid will be stretched even further making it increasingly difficult to attract competent high quality professionals. So, yes… this budget reduction will have a massive impact on our schools and community, there is no doubt.
If the commissioners really are concerned with providing quality education and ensuring the vitality of this school district and community then a tax increase or some other means to address this budget shortfall should be on the table. The ability to maintain quality education for all children in this county is clearly contingent upon at least level funding for our schools even if it involves paying a bit more. By improving education we are improving our economy.
We all have an obligation to support public education; I’m just wondering how much longer we can do more with less…
Christine Somma Ph.D (ABD), Ed.M, MA/CCC-SLP