Budget impact to schools still unknown

Jul. 24, 2013 @ 09:14 AM

As North Carolina House and Senate leaders continue to push through a $20 billion budget, its impact to education is still up in the air.

With final votes scheduled today, concerns on the state and local level are being heard.

Janet Mason, Rutherford County Schools' superintendent, said Tuesday that there are still no hard figures telling what each school system can expect in state funding.

"We are anticipating that it will mean some cuts but we don't have any specifics," Mason said.

But, State Superintendent June Atkinson issued a statement citing various concerns over the budget proposal agreed upon by House and Senate leadership Sunday. Among those concerns are what she called a "lack of progress on teacher pay."

"For the first time in my career of more than 30 years in public education, I am truly worried about students in our care," Atkinson said, in a statement. "With this budget, North Carolina has moved away from its commitment to quality public schools.

"I am disappointed for the children in our state who will have fewer educators and resources in their schools as a result of the General Assembly's budget."

Mason echoed Atkinson's concerns over the potential cuts school systems across the state are bracing for.

"I am concerned as are all school leaders," Mason said. "Anything that will impact us in a way that means we have to change our services is concerning."

With regards to teacher pay, Atkinson called the state's level of compensation "dismal" compared to national and regional standards.

"Why should these teachers stay in our state?" Atkinson said. "Add to that the end of pay increases for master's degrees beginning in 2014-15, and there is even less incentive to work in North Carolina's public classrooms."

Other parts of the budget involving public education include the end to teacher tenure, replacing it with contracts renewed based on performance measures.

Superintendents from across the state are meeting in Raleigh this week for their quarterly meeting. Mason said she hopes to have more exact figures and their effects on Rutherford County Schools after those meetings.

"We are awaiting guidance and we are looking as to what those potential reductions are for Rutherford County Schools," Mason said.

But Atkinson fired a salvo at lawmakers about the budget proposal.

"North Carolinians want strong public schools. Polls show it. My interaction with parents and students show it," Atkinson said. "Our own state leaders claim it. But this budget doesn't deliver it."