Author

Uncategorized

Our story about budget cuts is on the NC Policy Watch main page. To accompany that piece, here is a Q&A with Philip Price, chief financial officer for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Policy Watch: With three years of budget cuts now amounting to nearly $700 million, what has been the impact on schools throughout the state?

Price: They’ve been challenged. They have to come up with ways of addressing the large negative reserve that’s in place. They’ve had to increase class sizes. Initially there was a significant reduction in support personnel, your clerical (positions) and custodians and, for that matter, teacher assistants. In other words, your non-certified personnel. In the first couple of years, the cuts were predominantly in those areas, and then as the cuts continued, they had to move beyond those particular areas and start hitting into the instructional personnel…. So they’ve been challenged, and they’ve had to deal with those challenges by making some tough decision at the local level.

At least 45 percent of the budget is associated with classroom teachers, that’s why it such a large percentage to have to consider. If I told you to cut your budget and 50 percent of your household budget is food, you’d probably have a difficult time coming up with reductions without touching your food budget. Read More

Uncategorized

The North Carolina state Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday to renew the charter of Cape Lookout Marine Science High School, but the troubled school must adhere to several new requirements, including state standards for taking end-of-course tests.

The students at Cape Lookout, like all other students in the state, must take all end-of-course tests and at the same 95 percent test taking rate as everyone else. In addition, enrollment at the school cannot dip below 65; the fund balance must stay in the black; and the school’s audits must not produce any red flags. The renewal is good for two years.

“If they don’t play by the rules,” board Chairman Bill Harrison said, “they are agreeing to surrender their charter. We won’t have to go through the revocation process.”

Located in Morehead City, Cape Lookout now has a largely revamped school board, one of many efforts to improve upon its track record. A history of financial woes, enrollment issues and low test scores led the board of education to rebuff its renewal application earlier this year. A subsequent court decision, however, allowed the school to stay open.

Uncategorized

Hallet S. Davis is the principal of a new regional school located at the Vernon G. James agricultural research center in Plymouth. Lawmakers approved special legislation to create the school, which draws on the student population of five counties in northeastern North Carolina.

The school is focused on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM education, and it incorporates a number of features designed to enhance rigor and prepare low-income students for college. Known as the Northeastern Regional School for Biotechnology and Agriscience, or NERSBA, it opened in August with 60 students.

Of those, some are high performing students, others are not; roughly 65 percent are economically disadvantaged; about half are boys and half are girls; one is Hispanic; and there’s pretty much a 50/50 split between the number of white and African American students.

To close the various academic, socioeconomic and racial gaps, Davis and his staff have spent a lot of time on activities designed to break the ice and engage students in collaborative learning.

In addition, Davis took the unusual step of talking about race. Read More

Uncategorized

The North Carolina State Board of Education approved a budgetary wish list on Thursday, one that includes a request for the Department of Public Instruction to regain administrative control over the state’s highly touted pre-K program.

The budgetary process is at a very early stage and the request is likely to go through various post-election transformations, but the Pre-K message is very clear. June Atkinson, the state’s superintendent of public schools, said she would draft a letter formally requesting that lawmakers put the program back where it belongs – at DPI.

When the Pre-K program was under the Department of Public Instruction, she said, it was recognized as being one of the best in the nation.

In addition, she said, “Our cost analyses show that since we already have an infrastructure for schools, we can serve 1,800 more students with the same amount of money, which to me is very powerful.”

Atkinson also highlighted economic research that says for every dollar invested in pre-K education, the return on investment ranges from $9 to $18.

NC Pre-K currently serves well under half of the state’s estimated 67,000 at-risk 4-year-olds. Of those, 12,000 are on a waiting list to get in. The current situation is, in part, the result of a legislative decision to cut funding by $16 million for the 2011-2012 school year, thereby reducing the number of children served by 3,167, or 10 percent.

Lawmakers also decided to take the pre-K program out of DPI and put it in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Uncategorized

Thomas Speed bid adieu to the State Board of Education Thursday, ending nearly a decade representing the northwestern part of the state on a panel that promises to become much more contentious in the upcoming months.

Speed, an attorney from Boone, was named to the board in May 2003 by former Gov. Michael Easley. His term expired in March 2011, but Republican lawmakers failed to approve Gov. Bev Purdue’s nominations for his seat and two others, including the one held by Chairman Bill Harrison. So the trio has continued to serve.

“They had appointments that were not approved by the legislature,” Speed said. “That’s the reason I’m a so-called holdover. But the seat will remain vacant until there’s an appointment, and that’s likely to be sometime this spring.”

Speed said he was leaving the board because an increased workload was making it difficult for him to fulfill his duties on the board. “It’s hard for me to get away from court to be here,” he said. “I decided if I couldn’t be here as I should, then I should step down.”

His words were brief. He said his nine years and eight months on the board had been “educational” and “a great experience.” His actions, however, seemed to speak volumes. At the end of the meeting, he lingered for a while after everyone else had left. Then he slowly walked out the door.