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NBC 17 Story Sidesteps Issue of Declining Public School Personnel

A news story [1] that aired on Raleigh’s NBC-17 News last night claimed to offer a “reality check” on how budget cuts affected teaching jobs in North Carolina’s public schools.

Unfortunately, the story left viewers with a mistaken impression that North Carolina’s public schools have weathered recent budget cuts without losing many teaching positions. Although the story is correct to note that 534 teachers were laid off this school year, in addition to 1,260 teacher assistants (based on August 2011 data [2]), layoffs are less relevant than positions lost when looking at the impact of budget cuts on North Carolina’s public schools.

According to the latest data [3] from the NC Department of Public Instruction (NC DPI), North Carolina’s public schools (excluding charters) have 15,497 fewer full-time personnel this year compared to three years ago. Just under one in three of those position losses (4,840) occurred in the last year, and seven in ten of those lost positions since 2009 are the result of fewer teachers (5,134) and teaching assistants (5,738).

While “only” 6,167 personnel losses were the result of layoffs since 2009, it matters little to North Carolina schoolchildren’s education whether there are fewer teachers, teacher assistants, librarians, and other personnel due to layoffs or due to a position not being filled when an educator retires or changes jobs. The end result of fewer educators working to provide schoolchildren with an education is the same regardless.

Furthermore, North Carolina’s schools will face the prospect of thousands more fewer personnel next year. According to NC DPI, There are currently more than 4,000 public school personnel currently being supported through $254 million in remaining temporary federal assistance that expires in September of this year. Without additional federal, state, and/or local funds, local school districts will be hard-pressed to retain many of those public school employees through the next school year.