The words are not mine. Introducing the House budget cut proposals for the 2009-2011 K-12 budget late yesterday, Education Appropriations Co-Chair, Rep Rick Glazier, a man known for his commitment to education, said in a tired voice flecked with frustration and some anger, “These cuts are draconian.” Next to him sat Rep Rapp, another co-chair long known for his commitment to education, his face set grimly as Glazier read out the cuts one by one.
Occasionally Glazier paused between line items and sighed. Obviously wearied by the previous week he sometimes stumbled, asking Fiscal Research staff to explain a program or its workings. Many explanation of the cuts were simply, “We have to cut everywhere if we are to meet our target.”
More than once his voice wavered, filling with emotion as he explained cuts that bit deep: expanding class sizes, and laying off instructional support staff and third grade teaching assistants. Glazier and Rapp are plainly aware of the pain this budget will cause. They are the messengers and are trying to apportion the damage evenly across education. It is a thankless task.
- At least 11 000 teaching, teaching assistant, state and local administration staff and assistant principal positions lost
- Larger class sizes (two students on average, but some will see many more)
- Shorter school years for 2009 – 2011
- A teacher pay cut of 2.5%
- Elimination of multiple professional development programs, Earn and Learn on-line, some end-of-grade tests.
The result? Diminished teaching quality and the erosion of critical administrative support for schools that will indirectly affect classroom quality. The loss of instruction support for young boys and girls at the critical third grade level. Experts agree that if boys and girls cannot read and write by the end of third grade they are far more likely to drop out of school before graduation. Their life earnings prospects decrease dramatically.
In this year, no-one is saying make no cuts. But the Speaker and the big Appropriations chairs - those who set the overall spending limits for their various sub-committees such as the one co-chaired by Representatives Glazier and Rapp – need to know that cuts alone to balance this depression year budget will only make things worse.
Not only is the unwillingness to raise new revenue directly placing our children at greater risk by limiting, cutting and eliminating services (the Medicaid cuts are going to be a disaster for children in low-income families), but the loss of jobs associated with those cuts, many of which are modestly or low paid, threatens to deepen the economic crisis. Many states have come to these conclusions and are raising new revenue. North Carolina needs to join them.