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Budget deal has North Carolina State Superintendent “truly worried about students” for first time in 30 years

State Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson released a statement this evening on the budget deal that lawmakers will very likely vote into law this week. The budget contains deep cuts for public education, and in her statement Atkinson makes clear her fears for the future of the children of North Carolina.

For the first time in my career of more than 30 years in public education, I am truly worried about students in our care. 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.

A bright spot in this budget is the end of the discretionary reduction. By ending this budgeting strategy, North Carolina is being more transparent and even-handed in our budget processes and providing relief for districts that have struggled to locate funds to return to the state coffers.

While the end of the discretionary reduction represents a move in the right direction, I am troubled by the lack of progress on teacher pay. Having an excellent teacher for every classroom is essential. North Carolina teacher pay is dismal compared to the nation and to all of our bordering states. Starting teachers can earn $10,000 more per year in some of our neighbor states, while a teacher with six years of experience will make the same as a first-year teacher here in North Carolina. Why should these teachers stay in our state? 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 school classrooms. We must quit talking about the goal of bringing our teacher pay to the best in the nation and start putting action behind those words.

There are many other details that are troubling. I am concerned that this budget will cost schools thousands of teacher and teacher assistant positions. Our already-large class sizes will continue to grow.

This budget fails to provide resources for textbooks, instructional supplies and technology that our schools desperately need to remain up-to-date, especially as our student population grows.

North Carolinians want strong public schools. Polls show it. My interactions with parents and students show it. Our own state leaders claim it. But this budget doesn’t deliver it. Teachers are working as hard as they can. Materials and supplies are wearing thin. Classrooms are crowded, and there are fewer adults in each school today than there were five years ago but there are more students than ever across our state. The rest of the nation is not sitting still, and neither are our competitors across the globe. Our children deserve more support. Their futures depend on it.

14 Comments

  1. ML

    July 23, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Glad he’s finally truly worried.

  2. Alex

    July 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Sorry ML, but the superintendent is a lady ! I’m wondering why she’s getting worried now when we have been in the lowest national school rankings for many years, and at one time had about 30% of our students dropping out each year. Where in the world has she been ?

  3. ML

    July 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Sorry posted on my cell but like you said, where has she been?

  4. Doug

    July 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    ML,
    She has been silence because her party was the one dragging the state to the bottom and had no initiative to actually try to do her job. Now that it is not Bev bev cutting her funds (you do know she signed on to do that too) she feels she has to open her mouth.

  5. ML

    July 23, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Doug I don’t care who is cutting education just that it is being cut, and apparently it’s being done by everyone. But let us not forget the democratic leaders who championed public education and placed our university system among the best in the nation. It was also a time when most repubs prioritized education and knew public services were a worthwhile endeavor as opposed to now.

  6. […] forthcoming act. For those who have missed the circulating petitions and statements (such as this letter from the State Superintendent, Dr. June Atkinson), here is, by @NCPolicyWatch, a brief outline […]

  7. none

    July 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Get more money from Obama’s stash.

  8. none

    July 24, 2013 at 10:04 am

    It’s been proven that spending more money on education has absolutely no effect of grades.

  9. Ricky

    July 24, 2013 at 10:12 am

    It’s also been proven that many teachers now are being underpaid and overworked. And spending less on education sure ain’t gonna improve any grades.

  10. Kl

    July 24, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    I hope her message gets heard and teachers get some kind of incentive to stay in their profession since teachers teaching up to 6 years in Wake County(their salaries have been frozen at 1st year pay) can make more waiting tables or make the same in retail positions. And the work teachers do every single day with more than 100 students on their load! NC’s treatment of teachers salary is an embarrassment to education in our nation.

  11. j to the g

    July 25, 2013 at 10:27 am

    > It’s been proven that spending more money on education has absolutely no effect of grades.

    It’s also been proven that many people don’t understand the actual nuances of policy research, at least when ignoring the nuance supports their ingrained biases. It’s not nearly that simple, simpleton.

  12. Ken Glick (EEI)

    July 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Individual school districts can always vote in bigger budgets should the cuts at the state level negatively impact the quality of education within the district. Dr. Atkinson knows that teacher salaries are not set at the state level.

  13. Mike

    July 28, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Wow so many people who do not have a clue in one place, first states with highest teacher salary’s have higher achievement-fact, Bev veto the education budget cuts- she was overridden- fact. Teacher pay was at 25th now after this year 50th- fact. Student achievement was in the top 25th including per student spending now at 48th-fact . Dropout rate decreased under Bev-fact. At what point do private schools become public 51%. Lastly 10 million in vouchers for private schools a joke at 4200 at student less then 3 students per county will benefit. Please be informed

    A Republican

  14. stephen

    July 30, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Teacher, Teacher, leave those kids alone. should be, Government, lawmakers, cabinet members, leave those Teachers alone. Think Pink Floyd would concur.