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Open-letter2011One of the many “make-do-with-less,” “up-by-their-bootstraps” creations of the modern public education system in North Carolina is something known as the “school improvement team” or “S.I.T.” These are simple, common sense groups created by state law that include “the principal of each school, representatives of the assistant principals, instructional personnel, instructional support personnel, and teacher assistants assigned to the school building, and parents of children” and that have the eminently reasonable and unsurprising objective of improving schools.

Recently and much to the group’s credit, the School Improvement Team at Chapel Hill’s Culbreth Middle School (a bipartisan group, by the way) crafted an open letter to Gov. McCrory about the state of education in North Carolina and the state’s dwindling investments. We offer it here as a potential inspiration to other dedicated S.I.T.’s around the state:

“Dear Governor McCrory,

The bipartisan School Improvement Team at Culbreth Middle School respectfully requests that you act in the best interests of all North Carolina’s children by advocating for a greater investment in public education.

After years of bipartisan failure to increase their salaries, North Carolina’s teachers are paid $10,000 below the national average.  Many of our teachers struggle to support their families and must devote time to second jobs to make ends meet.  Read More

After Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislative leaders announced their pay raise plan for new and less-experienced teachers last week, a pair of veteran teachers from Davie County (who also happen to be married) felt compelled to respond. Here is their open letter:

Dear Governor McCrory,

We moved here in 1998 from New York. North Carolina promised us a chance at living our dreams and becoming teachers. Although it was difficult, we moved 600 miles south, away from family and friends, away from the comforts of home, to start a life in Davie County. Culture shock aside, things went well. We assimilated quickly and seamlessly became crucial parts of our school and community’s culture. Both of us were elected Teacher of the Year for our schools, became National Board Certified Teachers, and achieved our Masters Degrees from North Carolina Universities. Life was good. Each of us became respected members of our school. We bought a modest house in a new neighborhood and in a few years two children were born.

We made a good living, were able to take small vacations and laugh. We could fill up our tanks and buy groceries without having to constantly check to be sure we could afford these necessities.

We didn’t expect to become rich doing the job we love to do. We knew from the very beginning that the payoff in education is not the savings account, but in the touched lives and future investment. We knew we would always need to balance our checkbooks and account for the summers off, but we were okay with that. We were able to live our lives, put two children in daycare, and still invest a little bit for the future.

Sixteen years later, things are different. Read More

The Philadelphia City Paper’s Daniel Denvir published this story today about a 12-year-old girl who began experiencing an asthmatic episode while at school, did not get the medical attention she needed because there was no school nurse available thanks to budget cuts, and died later that day.

While it cannot be determined for certain if the girl, 12-year-old Laporshia Massey, would have survived had a school nurse been on-site, we do know this much, according to the City Paper:

  • The School District of Philadelphia, long underfunded and now reeling from budget cuts implemented by Gov. Tom Corbett, has nearly 3,000 fewer staff members than it did in June.
  • Today, there are 179 nurses working in public, private and parochial schools, down from 289 in 2011.
  • Bryant Elementary, where Massey was attending school, only has one nurse on staff two days/week.
  • After the initial cuts, one protesting nurse at Bryant Elementary specifically warned that other staff were not competent to deal with asthmatic students in her absence.

North Carolina is dealing with its own school budget cut woes thanks to reduced spending on education by state lawmakers this year. We’re tracking the cuts local school districts have had to make — click here to read those accounts.

While I have not yet seen reports of eliminating school nurse positions, I have seen reports of eliminating school psychologist positions, in addition to teacher assistants, teachers, and administrative staff.

Do you have school budget cuts to report or stories to tell that are a direct consequence of reduced funds for your school? Let us know at lindsay@ncpolicywatch.com