Written by Submitted
Thursday, 14 July 2011 16:04
The impact of state budget cuts on the Watauga County Schools is currently expected to include 36 fewer spaces in the district’s pre-kindergarten program and ten less positions on the payroll for 2011-12. The pre-kindergarten program for four year old children is expected to offer 126 spaces in 2011-12 instead of the 162 slots available in 2010-11 and the program will also have to begin charging fees to most parents.
The new fees, which will vary based on family income and the number of persons in the family, are mandated by the NC General Assembly in connection with a 20% cut in state funding for pre-kindergarten services. Pre-kindergarten applicants are being sent letters with more detailed information about these fees.
The expected position reductions include four at the district level, one assistant principal position and one classroom position at the high school, and four teacher assistant positions in the pre-kindergarten program. The net loss will be eight positions after taking into account one math specialist position to be added through the “Race to the Top” grant and a teaching position added with increased funding for teachers in kindergarten through third grade. All reductions have been handled through attrition and reassignments and no layoffs of permanent employees have been required for 2011-12. Several of the positions had been eliminated through attrition during the 2010-11 school year as part of ongoing reorganizational efforts designed to protect classrooms from the additional budget cuts anticipated for 2011-12. More than 85 positions have been cut from the Watauga County Schools payroll since 2008.
The potential impact of this year’s budget cuts was substantially reduced by increased funding of $768,000 approved by the Watauga County Commissioners. These funds will stave off larger cuts in classroom positions and significant layoffs of current employees.
“We are very grateful for the leadership of the Watauga County Commissioners in stepping up to increase their support of our schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Marty Hemric. “Our county leaders have a history of demonstrating a strong commitment to education, and we are very fortunate that they are adding to that legacy at this critical time for our students and teachers. Their commitment is making the difference between a year that will be challenging and a year that could have been very damaging to our schools.”
The impact of this year’s state budget cuts is also being reduced by $933,000 in federal “Edu-Jobs” funds. That funding will end after the coming school year and is not expected to be replaced by any other funding source for 2012-13.
North Carolina’s new budget reduces funding for public schools by $459 million, not including $304 million in continued unspecified (“discretionary”) reductions. This marks the third year in a row of declining state funds for public education. North Carolina’s ranking in per student funding for public schools is expected to fall to 49th out of the 50 states this year and the ranking for average teacher salary is likely to be only slightly better. The state provides approximately 60% of funds for public schools statewide and about 56% of the budget for the Watauga County Schools.
In addition to the reductions in state education funding, the new state budget increases deductibles and co-payments on employee health insurance, imposes a new employee payment for individual health coverage, and increases the premium for coverage of dependents. Pay for teachers and state employees will be frozen for the third year in a row and will remain unchanged for a fourth year in 2012-13.
While noting that these are challenging times, Dr. Hemric commented that “We are very fortunate to be part of a community that is so supportive of public education, and our teachers and other school employees are to be commended for their great work in maintaining a positive attitude and positioning our students for continued success. We have much to be proud of and much to be grateful for both in our schools and in this community that gives our students such impressive support.”