Education

Governor's School weighs tuition to replace state funds

Posted July 14, 2011

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— North Carolina's oldest residential summer program for academically gifted students could disappear next year because of state budget cuts.

Lawmakers dropped the nearly $850,000 in funding for Governor's School in the new state budget. The State Board of Education must now decide whether to charge students about $2,000 dollars in tuition to keep it going.

Until last year, the program was free for students. Because of 2010 budget cuts, students paid $500 to attend this year.

Shiana Thomas, 16, of Buckhead, is attending the program this summer.

“If I was to have to come next year and it was full tuition, there would be no way I would make it without a blessing from God,” she said Wednesday.

Michael McElreath, director of the program on the Meredith College campus in Raleigh, said he worries that another significant tuition increase will limit many students who qualify for Governor's School but can't afford it.

“Governor's School has always been an institution that serves those in the state who are qualified and interested and engaged, without regard to their means,” McElreath said. “We'd like to see that continue.”

State Superintendent June Atkinson is also concerned about charging students full tuition and said she wants to put the program on hold instead.

Governor's School weighs tuition to replace state funds Governor's School weighs tuition to replace state funds

“My recommendation is that we not operate Governor's School (until) the General Assembly can fund it again,” Atkinson said.

House Republican Majority Leader Paul Stam said that lawmakers followed the governor's request to prioritize protecting teachers and teacher assistants when deciding on education cuts in the budget. Doing so required lawmakers to cut funding to extra programs such as Governor's School first, he said.

“That's just being prudent in a time of difficult financial situations,” Stam said.

He also noted that Governor's School is a very small piece of the overall budget and said that it does not have to shut down.

“The state Board of Education can use other money to do that next year or raise money from some of the other alumni who are upset,” he said.

The school's alumni association and some current students are already working on a plan to do that. They recently held a rally on the Meredith College campus and will continue to reach out to others for donations.

Jim Hart, president of the alumni association, said their message is simple: Keep the doors open.

"Even if we don't have funding from the state, give us the opportunity to show that the alumni can fund this on their own," Hart said.

Atkinson said she admires their effort, but they would have to raise about $1 million by mid-August to make it work. 

The six-week program is housed on the campuses of Meredith College and Salem College in Winston-Salem each summer. It started in 1963 and has about 31,000 alumni.

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  • katha Jul 15, 2011

    As a teacher I get reminded "constantly" how European and Asian countries well out perform US students on international testing and academic competitions. Here is one chance to bring our top students up to par with the minds of this world. But funds are canceled. OK??? so switch funding from tax dollars to private donations...where are the donations from Speaker Tillis's pocket? OR from his staff who just got a raise to over $150k a year? NoOOoooo. But us teachers will write the donation check with our frozen salaries. Sad...

  • jamesmauldin Jul 15, 2011

    "The school's requirements are discriminatory, and should not be bound to those already classified as AG. It should have been opened up to any student that teachers recommended, but never was. Based upon the current setup/requirements, I say let's save the money and just let the program end."

    Inclusion in GS is not based on students who are already classified as academically gifted, and in fact nomination is solely based on teacher recommendation. Once nominated, the student must audition (for the arts), or write an essay (humanities) to be accepted. This is the way the system has always been set up, and GS has been hailed as one of the most inclusive summer enrichment programs in the country. In fact, the majority of the good done by attendance at GS is directed toward those who would hardly be considered the "privileged few".

    Full disclosure: I attended Governor's School.

  • lee0908 Jul 15, 2011

    "We're spending most of our efforts getting the bottom 20% of students to "just pass" and basically ignore the top 20%."- billo

    Well said, billo. I completely agree. I wish it could just be sink or swim. Unfortunately, those bottom 20% will be the ones on goverment benefits if we let them sink.

  • bill0 Jul 15, 2011

    "Education is something that benefits the person who is educated. It is a service therefore there should be a charge for it. "

    This has to be the most short sited post I have ever seen on GOLO. No thinking person can reasonably believe that this entire area has not benefited mightily from having a well educated work force. Why do you think businesses move here?

    Right now, we aren't doing a good job of developing the next generation of leaders. That is going to hurt all of us. We're spending most of our efforts getting the bottom 20% of students to "just pass" and basically ignore the top 20%. The indians and the chinese sure aren't doing that. They are cranking out tomorrows leaders in engineering, science and technology.

  • lee0908 Jul 15, 2011

    I know that he is not the only one with this story. For those of you who think that this is for elite gifted kids, that is just not the case. It is changing lives and each year encourages hundreds of kids to strive beyond the norm, to strive beyond what their family tells them is possible. I am so sad that this program may be on the way out. It is remarkable.

  • lee0908 Jul 15, 2011

    While I applaud the legislature for being willing to make cuts to balance the budget, no one wants to see "their" program cut. As a GSW99 alum, I can tell you that this program is not a necessity. Life will go on without GS. BUT, GS is an amazing experience that changed my life and the life of my husband, whom I met there. I am one of the people whose parents could have afforded the tuition if needed. I would have gone to college and been successful without it. My husband is a different story. Had he not attended GS, he would likely never have gone to college, started a professional career, or strived beyond his rural roots. He'd be working in a factory like the rest of his family and would've wasted his incredible intelligence and potential. Instead, he worked his tail off to put himself through school because he realized that there is more to life than mediocrity. He saw that he can succeed even though his parents didn't graduate high school and had no money.

  • beachboater Jul 15, 2011

    "The school's requirements are discriminatory, and should not be bound to those already classified as AG. It should have been opened up to any student that teachers recommended, but never was. Based upon the current setup/requirements, I say let's save the money and just let the program end." cnagy

    Please delete the above message!!! cnagy says it's discriminatory!! You know what that means. The Reverend Doctor William Barber, II will have to make some more trips to Raleigh.

    That'll take care of the budget for ya!!

  • BlueForever Jul 15, 2011

    As a parent of someone who attended GS, as well as a committee member of our local public school system's AG committee, it is extremely concerning that more and more resources are diverted locally from the brightest academically and spent on federal mandates, such as ESL programming and for the "homeless and displaced." In many rural systems, there are precious few classes and resources for the AG. It is easy for families with better access to IB/AP classes, college classes, camps, etc. to believe GS is a waste of money. When my son attended GS, there were many kids there for whom a tuition charge would have prohibited them from attending; and yet this was an amazing experience. I had an issue with the 6 week's theme, but the openness to an learning atmophere was priceless. I understand the legislature had tough choices, but I am sorry this was put on the chopping block and not a bigger cut into Smart Start or More at Four.

  • Pseudonym Jul 15, 2011

    Quote from Slo-talker: "The country has got to go on the Dave Ramsey plan."

    +1!!!!!!

  • cnagy Jul 15, 2011

    The school's requirements are discriminatory, and should not be bound to those already classified as AG. It should have been opened up to any student that teachers recommended, but never was. Based upon the current setup/requirements, I say let's save the money and just let the program end.

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