Teacher assistant layoffs begin as budget uncertainty remains

Layoffs at public schools have begun as local education officials wait for state lawmakers to return from vacation and come to a final agreement on the budget for the next two years.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports that more than 30 TAs have already been let go from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and more layoffs might be coming.

Crutchfield said the district first cut 55 of its 500 teacher assistant positions before either the House or Senate budget proposals were released. Crutchfield said school officials expected to lose $25 million in non-recurring funding from the previous budget. Another 55 positions were cut after the Senate budget was released. If the full cuts in the Senate proposal are adopted, the district would need to eliminate almost twice as many positions.

“We still have our fingers crossed that the compromise (budget) will not cut deeper than 110 positions,” Crutchfield said. Crutchfield said the district would have to lay people off after they were already planning to report to work in August.

Legislative leaders can spin all they want to, but they continue to make it harder for teachers and schools to educate their students.


Rising up against voter suppression

Voting rightsBob Geary  has put together the compelling reasons for folks to head to Winston-Salem Monday for the march and rally for voting rights on the first day of the federal court trial of the voter suppression law passed by the General Assembly in 2013.

Geary reminds us that the law includes more than 50 pages of voting impediments, not just the photo ID provision that has received the most publicity, the provision that lawmakers softened recently in a panic before the trial started.

What remains of HB 589? It reduces the number of early-voting days from 17 to 10. (In the 2012 elections, 70 percent of black voters came early, compared to 52 percent of whites.) It eliminates same-day registration and voting during the early voting period. (Blacks, who are 22 percent of the voting population, were 34 percent of the same-day registrant-voters.) And if you vote in the wrong precinct—say, because you moved—none of your votes count, even for president.

One upshot is that people who come to an early-voting site and aren’t properly registered will be too late to get properly registered in time to vote on Election Day. North Carolina, in the top 12 states for voter turnout since same-day registration began in 2008, may sink back to the bottom.

Learn more about the march and the courts case at




Vacationing Senator Tillman not worried about budget uncertainty at schools

Jerry TillmanSenator Jerry Tillman and the rest of the General Assembly are on vacation this week even though they have not finished their most important task of the summer, passing a state budget for the next two years.

The delay is causing problems for school districts across the state as local education officials don’t know how many teacher assistants they can afford to hire or how many textbooks they will  have money to order.

This morning’s News & Observer detailed the uncertainty for year-round schools in Wake County, the state’s largest district, that has the budget flexibility to handle the funding limbo for a while.

It is much tougher for smaller districts that always have to scramble to make sure they have enough staff on hand when most students return to school in August.

This year’s legislative vacation and budget delay makes their job next to impossible. Tillman doesn’t seem too worried about not meeting the budget deadline or what schools are facing.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican, said the lead time to hire for the start of the school year depends on when legislators have a budget deal. The General Assembly approved a temporary state budget last week to keep the state running until Aug. 14.

“It could be two months, it could be two weeks,” he said.

School leaders in Wake and other districts have questioned finding the space to handle the lower class sizes proposed by the Senate. More teachers and lower class sizes may require some “creative scheduling” by districts, or “creative use of space,” Tillman said. “Most of them can handle it.”

Two weeks, two months, whatever. School officials will have to guess about their budgets and hire teachers or teacher assistants to teach kids…or not.
Tillman’s not going to lose any sleep over it. It’s only public education after all.

Berger’s hypocrisy on redistricting reform continues

Sen. Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

This week’s Supreme Court decision that reaffirmed the constitutionality of allowing independent commissions to draw congressional districts prompted Charlotte Observer reporter Jim Morrill to ask Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger about legislation sponsored by a majority of the House that would create a nonpartisan redistricting process in North Carolina.

Still not a good idea? Berger thought it was a fine idea when he was in the minority in the General Assembly. He co-sponsored redistricting reform five times, most recently in the 2009-2010 session.

The only thing consistent is his hypocrisy.


House Majority Leader too busy to consider McCrory’s bond proposal

Governor Pat McCrory continues to struggle to earn the respect of state legislative leaders. The latest evidence that the folks on Jones Street aren’t too worried about what the governor thinks comes from House Majority Leader Mike Hager in an AP story about why McCrory’s bond proposals are floundering in the House and Senate.

“With the budget we’ve got going on we really haven’t got a lot of time to discuss it,” said House Majority Leader Mike Hager, R-Rutherford.

No time to discuss it? McCrory proposed the bonds in his State of the State speech to the General Assembly on February 4th, more than four months ago, and he has spent the last several weeks touring the state to build support for the bonds.

House leaders have had plenty of time to discuss it. They simply don’t respect McCrory enough to make it a priority and he still hasn’t figured out how to use the power of his office to make them.