North Carolina could end up dead last in the nation in per pupil funding under proposals by House budget writers on Tuesday, state K-12 leaders warn.
"This budget would push our schools to a level of very bare-bones opportunities for students and for educational innovation," State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison said in a news release. "I am concerned for local superintendents who will have to find ways to meet students' educational needs with fewer school-based staff, without appropriate diagnostic tools for students and with limits regarding where they can make cuts to meet the state's $305 million 'discretionary' cut that local schools are already required to make."
House budget writers proposed an 8.8 percent cut, on top of the discretionary cut built into the current recurring budget. State education leaders said the proposals would continue larger class sizes in grades 4-12; would cut support staff in schools; would eliminate teacher assistants in second and third grades; and would trim assistant principals by one-fifth.
"This budget positions North Carolina schools to operate in only the most limited fashion," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "Taken together, all of these cuts would severely limit what local schools will be able to offer to students and will jeopardize more than 25 years of progress in our state."
The budget also includes a 25.58 percent cut to the Department of Public Instruction at a time when the state agency is overseeing the $400 million federal Race to the Top grant, trying to turn around 213 low-performing schools and overseeing public charter schools, which could expand significantly under legislation that recently passed the House.
Harrison and Atkinson pointed out that North Carolina ranks 46th in per pupil funding and 45th in teacher pay, but outperforms many states on various student achievement measures.