Spence, Deese sign letter calling for more education spending
Two Union County mayors joined 51 of their counterparts across the state Wednesday, Jan. 25 in signing a letter in support of raising taxes for education.
Lake Park mayor Kendall Spence and Marshville mayor Franklin Deese both signed the open letter, asking the people of North Carolina to call state lawmakers, asking them to approve the measure. Earlier this month, Gov. Bev Perdue proposed a three fourths of a cent increase in taxes, to be designated for education funding.
“Right now, North Carolina ranks 49th in spending per student, when we used to be in the top 12, I believe,” Spence said. “We had a very sound educational system, (but) now we’re cutting teacher assistants, we’re taking money out of the classroom. Teachers have also had a hard time, losing money from National Board and Master’s (degree) bonuses.”
The only other mayors from nearby areas to sign the letter were Concord mayor Scott Padgett and Kannapolis mayor Bob Misenheimer.
Perdue’s plan would see the sales tax go up in counties from 6.75 to 7.5 cents. Last year, the Republican majority in the General Assembly allowed a three year old sales tax increase to expire, rather than extend it again. If approved, Perdue said the money would be set aside and earmarked for education.
“As mayors, we know that education is the key to our children’s future and to North Carolina’s economic future,” the letter reads. “Investing in education is central to our ability to attract new jobs and businesses to our state. When companies talk about moving here or expanding, their first question is whether we have the educated, skilled workforce they need.”
The letters from the 53 mayors blames the General Assembly’s 2011 session budget for the loss of teacher and teacher assistant positions. Speaking to UCW for a piece last week, District 68 Rep. Craig Horn and District 103 Rep. Bill Brawley both questioned why the General Assembly was being criticized for eliminating teacher positions, when the budget they passed fully funded all teaching positions.
The 2011 budget, House Bill 200, does not take away specific funding for teachers, although there were cuts elsewhere. In section 7.21 of the bill, it calls for school districts to first look at administrative positions for cuts, before considering any others.
“In making reductions, local school administrative units shall first consider reductions to central office administration and other administrative functions,” the law reads. “Notwithstanding G.S. 115C-301 or any other law, local school administrative units shall have the maximum flexibility to use allotted teacher positions to maximize student achievement in grades 4-12. Class size requirements in grades K-3 shall remain unchanged.”
Since 2009, the Union County 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. The governor’s proposed budget wasn’t that different than what finally passed, asking for $50 million more.
Union County cut four assistant principals this year, 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 more than $1 million.
“My mother is a retired school teacher, so I understand what they go through,” Spence said. “The funding we’re asking for would be helpful for the classroom.”
Spence also suggested that the tax increase be temporary, to go away in two years. When asked what guarantees he had that the tax would be temporary, Spence said he believed the economy would improve to the point extra taxes wouldn’t be needed.
“Hopefully in two years that tax increase can go away,”Spence said. “I think it’s good to have a term on that request, for fiscal responsibility.”