Top eight education cuts in the Senate budget proposal

Perhaps more aptly named the “worst eight,” here are, well, eight cuts to education that Senate GOP leaders want to make in the name of raising teachers’ salaries.

1. Career Status (aka Teacher Tenure)

While this one may not have a dollar value (?), for many educators it’s a priceless job protection that is not a guarantee of a job, but simply due process. Up for demotion or dismissal? Career status means you get to have a hearing where an objective human, often an ex-judge, reviews the facts and decides if the action taken against you is just.

If their budget passes as-is, Senate GOP leaders will require teachers to give up their employment protections if they want to pull themselves out of poverty and get the first meaningful raise they’ve seen in six or so years.

Why? Senator Berger says it’s because it’s too hard to fire bad teachers. Others have speculated that the destruction of tenure makes it easier to clear out expensive veteran labor and hire in new, cheaper labor.

2. Teacher Assistants

TAs have been on the chopping block for years. The Senate budget would pare them back even further, cutting state funding for them by half, or $233 million. Funds only remain for kindergarten and first grade TAs – second and third grade teachers must fend for themselves, even though class sizes are up.

Senator Tillman told WRAL that the research is cloudy in terms of TAs’ effect on students’ academic outcomes in second and third grades.

One has to wonder what the sample of students looks like in those studies that Senator Tillman has read. Are those students in large classrooms? Are they hungry, neglected, lacking proper clothes and soaked in urine? That’s what one second grade teacher in Beaufort County faces, and she didn’t have a full- time TA last year. So before she can teach those kids, she has to fix all of those problems first, or else they don’t learn.

How do you do that without a TA?

3. School Nurses

A $3 million cut may not seem like too big a deal, but consider this: The National Association of School Nurses says that the ratio of students to school nurses should be 1:750.

In North Carolina, that ratio currently stands at 1:1200 or more.

The Senate budget proposal would have a pretty substantial impact on that ratio and on low-income children, says Cheryl Blake, president of the School Nurse Association of N.C. And it’s especially troubling at a time when chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma are on the rise, and school personnel and administrators are left to serve as medical professionals too.

In a small, rural county west of Charlotte, one school nurse told N.C. Policy Watch that the Senate budget proposal would mean her district would be cut to just one nurse who would have to serve six schools that are each at least ten miles apart.

“Last year, I had a child in my school have a seizure and he stopped breathing. The staff didn’t know how to simply reposition his head to breathe again, which I did when I arrived on the scene. If I were ten miles away, the outcome of that situation would be devastating,” said the nurse, who doesn’t want to be identified.

Still not convinced it’s a big deal? Check out what happened in Philadelphia, where they are suffering from a huge lack of school nurses.

4. Textbooks

Gov. Pat McCrory heard State Superintendent June Atkinson’s pleas and decided to double the current textbook budget in his proposal, upping it from $23 million to $46 million for next year. Still a far cry from its 2009 funding level of $116 million, McCrory acknowledged that the state had a long way to go in its quest to transition from books to digital resources, and students shouldn’t suffer in the interim from a lack of learning materials.

The Senate felt differently, and didn’t put any more money at all into textbooks, leaving that line item stand at $23 million.

What’s it like when students in rural areas have no textbooks, limited access to computers at school, and spotty access to the Internet at home–if they even have computers in the first place? Check out this story about students in Franklin County, who have been doing without learning materials for some time.

5. Central Office Administrators

Senate lawmakers are keen to give teachers a raise, but some of those folks who work behind the scenes to ensure kids get a good education are left behind.

Funding would be cut by five percent for the salaries and benefits of superintendents, associate and assistant superintendents, finance officers, athletic trainers, and transportation directors (but not limited to those positions).

And even though teachers stand to get significant raises (remember, if they relinquish their tenure), school building central office staff like school guidance counselors, nurses, secretaries and other professionals would just get a $500 salary bump.

6. School Transportation

School transportation takes a $29 million hit in the Senate’s budget, which would come on top of cuts to school transportation budgets over the past several years.

Funds for school bus replacement would be cut by almost $3.5 million

Last year, lawmakers upped the mileage limit on school buses from 200,000 miles to 250,000 miles in a cost-saving maneuver.

More older buses are now on the roads, which means your kids don’t get to enjoy advanced safety features on newer buses. And the environment suffers too, from harmful emissions coming from older diesel engines.

Kids safety? Doesn’t seem to make the top ten for lawmakers.

7. Teaching Fellows

No big surprise here: last year, the General Assembly voted to discontinue funding for the highly praised Teaching Fellows program, which provides for a substantial teacher preparation program for North Carolinians who want to pursue a career in teaching and has excellent retention rates — three quarters of Teaching Fellows stay teaching in the state beyond five years.

This time around Senate lawmakers did not move to change course on that front — even though there has been a loud outcry over the move to defund the Teaching Fellows.

Instead, funds will be funneled to Teach for America, a national program often assailed for poorly preparing teachers who tend to stay in the classroom for a shorter amount of time.

8. Department of Public Instruction

DPI would take a 30 percent funding hit with the Senate budget. The department would have the discretion to implement cuts as they see fit, and Senator Tillman acknowledged that it could mean entire divisions within DPI would have to shutter — but he also said “As far as I can tell, they [DPI] don’t teach a single child.”  

There’s more to add to this list for sure — tell me what I missed in the comments below.

10 Comments

  1. David Blank

    May 30, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Ms. Wagner, here is my response to Senator Curtis

    Mr. Curtis,
    Obviously you are not afforded good assistants, secretaries, executive assistants, or whatever you label “your people”. If you had “good people” they would have done more research and given you better ammunition in which to battle Ms. Wiles. It has already been brought to your attention the error of “eight weeks paid vacation” (technically teachers should qualify for unemployment during those eight weeks), you were also made aware that educators are, by law, not allowed to have a “Bargaining Union”. I would like to think that since you are a lawmaker (and I use that term loosely) that you would be familiar with the laws that you, the legislators, create and we, your constituents, must live by.
    You bring up teacher’s pension. That is laughable. I have found some information on legislator’s retirement benefits (technology is a great thing, and imagine that, I don’t even have any “people”). I quote an article found at the website listed below. “A North Carolina law that allows the state’s part-time lawmakers to add an expense stipend to their base salary when calculating retirement benefits boosts their pensions by more than 30 percent, according to a News & Observer analysis. The percentage of salary lawmakers receive as an annual payout also is more than double the rate afforded most state workers.” Wow, what does that say, “more than double the rate afforded most state workers?” Why the omission? I don’t blame you; I wouldn’t broadcast that information either if I were in your shoes. My question here is; does your pension plan guarantee to pay you even if you live to be 104 years old?
    You bring up local teacher supplements paid by individual counties. First: Those funds are local and have nothing to do with state budget. Therefore, it basically is none of the state’s business. However, the reason for the supplements is to entice teachers to move to a particular district or compel the teacher to stay with a particular district. Let me make this suggestion Mr. Curtis. I will give you my teacher supplement if you will give me your unvouchered expense account for the year. As you know those funds, depending on your position within the assembly, range from $559.00/month to $1413.00/month. I can assure you that those additional unvouchered funds are at least double what a teacher receives as an annual supplement. The next question is: Are those funds taxable? My supplement most certainly is taxed.
    Understand this Mr. Curtis, at my school alone we have lost four teachers this year. Three of those teachers were some of the best I have been associated. All four are in their first five years of teaching, three have left the profession entirely and the other went to teach in a neighboring state. Can your position on educator compensation stand the test of time? My opinion is I don’t think so. If your “people” do their homework, I am sure they will find that the state of North Carolina is in an educational crisis.
    I also teach at a university and I have seen my potential teacher pool in my classes go from 15-20/class to 1 potential teacher in the last three semesters. I have to believe that I am privy to a microcosm of what is happening statewide. So by all means “Senator”, take a hard line. Teachers are just grunts on the front line and you can just send another wave when this wave becomes depleted.
    Mr. Curtis, whether it is karma or just good timing, I am not sure which, but it seems that we (teachers) will not have to explain to our new prospective employers our needs, wants, or demands. The employers are coming to us (http://triadnc.twcnews.com/content/news/triangle/708133/houston-school-district-lures-nc-teachers-with-job-fair) and offering us not only what North Carolina has but an average of 55% more pay with moving expenses. Sounds to me like the lowly teachers of North Carolina are a pretty hot commodity right now.
    The Problem is Senator, Governor McCrory and the legislature of North Carolina has, in less than one year, decimated the education system in North Carolina and may have done irreparable harm. As of now, the teachers which have made the decision to leave the profession, and move to other states will not come back. The shortage of educators in North Carolina will increase. Not only has the pool of those going into education from our colleges diminishing, but those which have chosen to come here from other states, i.e. Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc., will now choose to go elsewhere as well. I am glad you feel vindicated by your statements in your response to the concerned teacher, and I quote you Senator, “One positive is that this has increased my stature with the legislature,” Curtis told the Mooresville Tribune. “At least 40 legislators have told me ‘What you said was right on the money.’ ”
    – See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/05/23/sen-curtis-no-regrets-about-harsh-email-to-nc-teacher-says-more-than-40-lawmakers-agree-with-him/#sthash.6dZUEh0E.dpuf
    Congratulations Senators, other prospective employers have taken your advice and the educators of North Carolina are taking their offer. What cracks me up is the fact that now the lawmakers of North Carolina feel that the other states vying for our talents is being called “poachers”. What they should be called is “shrewd business people”. They are taking advantage of the situation created by you the lawmakers of North Carolina. So stand up take a bow and be proud of your work.
    Sincerely, David Blank

    http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/02/26/1884711/amid-retirements-state-lawmakers.html

  2. Main Street Muse

    May 30, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    As I understand it, this raise is unique; there is not funding to make education raises ongoing and more frequent than once in almost a decade. So it would seem this is a nice bump now that will have to sustain teachers for years to come.

    And with tenure abolished, these leaves the door open to let go experienced (more expensive) teachers.

    Have we come to a point where state employees should expect their starting salary to be very similar to their salary at the end of their career? A career without the expectation of raises? (Likely then, most employees will not stay long in state employment, but perhaps that’s the point: a frequent churn of state employees that results in cheap, inexperienced labor forever.)

  3. WR Davis

    May 30, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    The proposal also ends state funding for driver education classes beginning in 2015, a $28 million cut.
    They are also using funds from the Lottery, which is increasingly becoming recurring funding, as opposed to the original intentions/promises.

  4. Bendal

    May 30, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Look at what is happening in New Orleans if you want to see NC’s fate. After Hurricane Katrina, the LA legislature appointed an emergency board to oversee New Orleans’ school system and help it get back on its feet. Instead, the board immediately took over nearly every public school, fired over 7000 veteran teachers and brought in inexperienced “Teaching for America” rookies, and converted almost every public school into a charter/religious one. Now the school system is segregated into rich (white) schools and poor (black) ones, while the legislature sits back and says “well that’s what they want”. There are 5 public schools left in New Orleans, perhaps I should say there “used to be” 5 public schools. They are closing this year, being converted as well into charter schools. That’s NC’s fate given this legislature’s goals.

  5. TFA HUH

    May 31, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Teach for America with the funds they receive have started scraping more at the bottom of the barrel. What use to be the cream of the proverbial crop is now replaced with those seeking student loan payoff with no intention of staying. They are placed in content areas to teach that are not even in their major. They have one month of training compared to four years of training. It takes one full school year to get them close to being seen as “decent” teachers. They are rarely around in the summer months when many intense professional development opportunities exist because they return home. Many mentally clock out after winter break of their second year because they realize they are not coming back and are quick to remind you that they are not interested in more professional development because they are not returning.

    The ones who do tend to return to the state leave traditional public schools to go to charter schools where they don’t have to worry about renewing their teaching licenses. Take a look at college retention rates for the touted charter schools in rural counties. Some retain kids for three years in one grade level even though they pass state assessments. That’s another story in and of itself. Amazing with a few big dollar high powered supporters and a PR team can do to make you think all is wonderful in those places. They are NOT!!!

    Not all TFAs are bad and not all are elitist. But many call our students and members of our communities some very bad names and don’t care if they flunk every child in their room. The truth of the matter is that they don’t have to suffer the consequences of not truly teaching the students. A plethora of power point slides pre made by other TFAs can’t replace a good teacher who touches their children, engages them and views student failure as an charge to teach harder, search deeper for strategies to reach them and can’t wait to try again to make a greater impact.

    The “well I taught it” attitude and “the people here just don’t care about education” attitude is just far too common. Teachers who put in a weekly research paper in math because they think research is what is awesome (psychology major teaching mathematics) misses opportunities to engage students in mathematics because of their love of research.

    North Carolina Teacher Corps should have gotten the funding not Teach for America that still requires local districts to pay a yearly fee for every teacher they hire from them on top of paying their salary. That is something they don’t tell people either. It is not free for NC school districts to hire those teachers and they still have to pay them and the supplements for them.

  6. Bennie

    May 31, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    I totally agree with these proposals!!!! I have pulled my child out of public education and enrolled in private school. It has been the best thing I have done, wish I would have done it sooner. I am so tired of teachers complaining!!! Teacher tenure should have been gone years ago. No where can you a person work and be able to keep their their job with low performance scores! In the real world you don’t perform…no job. I cant think of a job where you get summers off, two weeks at Christmas, one week in Spring, holidays, get off at 3:30, etc. In the real world you work 5-7 days a week and request time off, i.e. vacation (one week a year). Teaching Fellows is a joke. The teachers work in public education to get their loan paid off and then go to Charter or public. Teachers have complained and complained about a raise, now they will be getting one and now complaining about work overload (no teacher assistant). My question is…teachers say they love to educate, “Why don’t you go teach a Sunday School Class or volunteer low performing kids after school”? If you are that unhappy with the pay ( that ALL we ever hear)…then LEAVE!!!!!

  7. Alan

    June 1, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Ah… don’t you just love all that southern hospitality? Meanwhile, not a peep from Art Popes’ paid interns….

  8. Robyn Fehrman

    June 2, 2014 at 9:22 am

    As lifelong North Carolinian, a progressive,a public school parent, and Executive Director of Teach For America Eastern North Carolina, I’d be happy to chat with anyone about our work: our classroom effectiveness, how we’re partnering with others on long-term rural retention, our diversity, and the areas we’re still working on. http://www.teachforamerica.org/tfa-on-the-record

  9. […] calls it an education budget, but Senate Minority Whip Josh Stein points out that plenty of groups will be hurt by the Senate’s spending […]

  10. LayintheSmakDown

    June 3, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    Ah peep peep……and again Alan/ML actually taking intelligence off the table rather than actually contributing