Superintendent scolds State Legislators over additional school days
School board members approved the final budget adjustments for the next fiscal year, after a presentation by Finance Officer Dan Karpinski detailing the allotment cuts handed down by the state.
Since 2009, the school system has absorbed a total of $11.5 million in discretionary cuts imposed by the General Assembly, including $3.2 million in this budget cycle.
While the teachers and teacher’s assistants were fully funded, the school system did cut four assistant principals, reduced in hours the equivalent of 14 non-instructional support positions; reduced career and technical education support and technology by $800,000; reduced transportation and classroom materials and supplies by over a million dollars.
Even driver training was cut, losing $176,000 from its $836,000 budget. Mr. Karpinski suggested that the state may allow the school system to charge up to $45 per student to make up the difference.
“We worked really hard to minimize impact of the budget on the classroom” Superintendent Ed Davis said, citing the federal Edu-Job supplemental funds saved from last year as providing a cushion for the current budget cuts.
“Next year we won’t have any Edu-Job funds.” Davis said, “We will have to impact the classroom in a major way, teachers positions will be cut, teacher’s assistants will be cut, there’s just no way around it.”
“A lot can happen between now and next year, we are hopeful that enough can happen” Davis said, “that it will mitigate or even eliminate the need to affect classrooms like that.”
The usually unflappable Dr. Davis bristled over criticism that school system has not cut any jobs. “We’ve heard from our critics that we haven’t actually cut any positions, yes, we have lost positions through attrition” Davis said, “but we’ve also had to cut people – 57 interim teachers do not have their jobs.”
Davis pointed out there were also more cuts, besides interim teachers.
“Forty-seven teacher’s assistants, either regular or media assistants have lost their jobs. That’s 104 people that had a job in Union County public schools last year” Davis said, “that do not have a job now.”
Longer school year
The school board approved a staff request a seek a one year waiver from the State Board of Education to a new law extending the school year by five days to a total of 185 days. The calendar extension was added during the House-Senate budget reconciliation and came as a complete surprise the local school systems, most of whose calendars have already been instituted for next year.
The additional school days mean an additional cost to the school system, on top of budget cuts already implemented by the state.
“They’ve added five days to the school year without any additional funding” Davis said, “we estimate it will cost over $300,000 to run our school buses alone and that doesn’t include our additional facilities costs.”
Legislators came up with the five extra days by removing the requirement for five mandatory teacher work days and converting them into normal student class days. The one caveat included in the bill is that lawmakers gave the North Carolina Board of Education the authority to make exceptions, designating some school districts that can postpone implementing the plan for a year. During their June 24 meeting, the state board of education voted unanimously to allow schools the option to postpone the extra five days, but only if they use the days for teacher training. The exemptions expire after one year however, so Union County and other districts will have to determine where to get the extra money as they start to work on next year’s budget.
Typically, teacher work days were used for parent-teacher conferences, staff development or to complete instructional and classroom administrative duties.
“Basically, the General Assembly did not think this thing through, and you can’t convince me that they did.” Davis said, “They didn’t consult us.”
“It’s going to be a morale killer and I am going plant it squarely on them” Davis said, “They own this one and I’m going to give it to them.”