As detailed last week, budget cuts are undermining public education in North Carolina by causing the elimination of thousands of educator jobs in public schools across the state (particularly in the state’s rural districts).
Unfortunately, without additional funds from federal, state, or local sources, school jobs cuts are almost certain to continue next year. In August of 2010, Congress allocated $10 billion in “EduJobs” aid to local school districts across the country to stem the national tide of widespread educator layoffs.
North Carolina’s share of this EduJobs aid was $297 billion,and, in total, local North Carolina school districts have reserved more than $250 million to support between 4,000 and 5,000 local school jobs in the current school year. In fact, 60 of the state’s 115 school districts had not spent any of their EduJobs allocation as of June 30, 2011, and only 18 districts had spent more than half of their original grant (see map).
Yet because all EduJobs money must be spent by September 2012, schools will likely be forced to eliminate most of those positions unless they receive new federal, state, or local resources. (One of the provisions of President Obama’s American Jobs Act would provide more than $900 million to hire roughly 13,400 teachers and first responders.)
Local school districts, as part of the biennial state budget, will face additional reductions in state funding in 2012-13. This year’s $429 million in local discretionary cuts ($124 million more than 2010-11) will rise by another $74 million next year, putting even more financial strain on already-bare district budgets.
Overcrowded classes and under-resourced schools will not produce the skilled workers that North Carolina needs. Without the resources necessary to ensure that children receive sufficient attention and support from skilled educators, more and more of North Carolina’s children will fall behind, resulting in fewer high school graduates and fewer young adults earning a college degree or post-secondary credential.
Such a dismal future for North Carolina is not inevitable. North Carolina’s public schools have made significant progress in guiding more teens through to graduation and improving graduates’ readiness for career and college. By raising enough revenue to avert further educator job losses and ensuring adequate state funding for districts with insufficient local resources, policymakers can ensure that the North Carolina’s public schools have the resources necessary to sustain and build on that hard-earned progress.