Wake County Schools

Wake schools may have no way out of classroom cuts in 2011-12

Posted November 16, 2010
Updated November 17, 2010

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— There is likely no way that Wake County schools will be able to avoid larger classes and layoffs in the 2011-12 year as federal, state and county governments cope with shrinking income and budget cuts, the school board heard Tuesday.

The board also came up against deep divisions about how it should proceed with trying to implement a new student assignment policy.

"Wiggle room" to avoid classroom cuts the system has ducked before "is all but removed, if not totally removed," chief financial officer David Neter told the board at a work session.

Neter and his staff are preparing the "business case" for a year in which state support could well fall by $50 million, and no one knows how bad shortages will actually be once state and county budgets are in place.

To dramatize the size of the problem Wake faces, Neter said that a $50 million cut in state funding would be the same size as laying off 1,000 employees at an average salary-and-benefit cost of $50,000 each.

The Wake budget for 2010-11 is $1.4 billion -- $1.2 billion in operating money and $200 million in capital spending.

Neter said other districts have had to deal already with what Wake could face in the 2011-12 year. Some of those cuts have included increasing class sizes and laying off teachers and counselors, cutting out courses not required for graduation and going to half-day kindergartens, which is not allowed in North Carolina.

Since the county reduced its support in December 2008 as the recession took hold, Neter said, that source of funds has dropped $55 million through the current year.

The staff is doing budget work now assuming state funding and county funding for 2011-12 will be the same as for the current year, but they know at the same time that is almost impossible, Neter said.

"We've maybe bought ourselves a year" by cutting in non-classroom areas before, the finance director said, but that time is gone.

Wake officials knew they were going to lose $40 million in one-time funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and Neter told the board that had been accounted for.

The board ended its six-hour work session on a divisive note, give a 5-4 informal "thumbs-up" vote to holding a work session on a proposal by member Kevin Hill on how to reach consensus in trying to devise a plan to implement the system's new community-based student-assignment policy.

In a series of 5-4 votes earlier this year, the board majority elected last November dumped the previous policy of including socio-economic diversity as a factor in assigning students to schools. Hill, who used to chair the board, was in the minority.

Any assignment plan made in a process that does not have consensus will not work, Hill predicted. He called for all board members to handle reassignment because, "That's one of those issues that transcends the committee level."

 The Student Assignment Committee chaired by majority member John Tedesco had been moving toward a plan based on several attendance zones. That stalled when member Debra Goldman, who supports the policy change, said it was going too fast with too little input from members, joined the minority for a 5-4 vote to stop it.

Member Chris Malone, one of four elected in 2009, said the minority was trying to use discussion about terms and goals to undo the vote it lost.

"The only way to" have everyone in the county "accept an assignment plan is to have all nine board members involved in building it," Goldman said.

"Hopefully, it will be more than a 5-4 vote" on a plan, she said. She added that even if the same split continues, all members will have had a part in the process. "This issue is so huge" that it is overriding all other discussions, she said.

In other action at its Tuesday work session, the board indicated to Interim Superintendent Donna Hargens that it wants to keep end-of-grade and end-of-course test requirements for student promotion next spring.

The state Department of Public Instruction decided to drop test proficiency as a requirement, part of a move toward a revised way of measuring student success. The change came after the current school year had begun.

"We started the '10-'11 school year with parents and students" expecting they would have to be proficient, Hargens said. With the state's decision in October to drop test results, one argument is that students might not take the tests seriously in the spring.

"What we need is direction for what to tell our schools," Hargens told the board.

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  • shortz1994 Nov 17, 2010

    rocker96& don'tlike bla bla bla... what does any of that have to do with schools in wake county,
    all i'm going to say this is sad for all kids an parents..

  • NCAries Nov 17, 2010

    Parenthood isnt all rainbows and fairy dust.
    arfamr1006

    True...and all teachers are not equal either...some go overboard with the suspensions.

  • I Change This Name Daily Nov 17, 2010

    Obama went against US Bankruptcy law and denied secured bondholders a stake in GM and Chrysler and gave over 50% of the companies to his union friends.

    Obama paid off his union friends for supporting his run for President.
    DontLikeTheSocialistObama

    georgie did the same for his boy cheney and his company halliburton

    only people are dying for their profits - like our troops.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Nov 17, 2010

    ""Obama has borrowed to give his Union Friends controlling interest in General Motors and Chrysler along with bailing out Obama's friends on Wall Street"

    sorry but it's your georgie boy dubya who got this ball rolling
    - rocker96"

    Bush wanted to bail out Chrysler and General Motors, he didn't want to give control to Obama's union friends like Obama did.

    Obama went against US Bankruptcy law and denied secured bondholders a stake in GM and Chrysler and gave over 50% of the companies to his union friends.

    Obama paid off his union friends for supporting his run for President.

  • Plenty Coups Nov 17, 2010

    "the way some teachers teach...a computer recording and an automati taser as discipline would be a better alternative to a teacher. just saying. not all, but some for sure"

    You could claim that for any profession. The logics the same. Punish all, because some might be ineffective.

  • Plenty Coups Nov 17, 2010

    "thats also a problem that your liberal friends started."

    You're assuming I'm liberal. I'm actually middle of the road. Angry parents suing districts is reality no matter who started it. When I show that the idea of merely kicking all bad children out of school is not realistic, (though it might be desirable), you simply turn to blaming one side. Fair enough, but its not a solution.

  • I Change This Name Daily Nov 17, 2010

    "Obama has borrowed to give his Union Friends controlling interest in General Motors and Chrysler along with bailing out Obama's friends on Wall Street"

    sorry but it's your georgie boy dubya who got this ball rolling

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Nov 17, 2010

    "ncguy - That's right, Bush borrowed billions to fight two illegal wars."

    Don't forget the $3 Trillion that Obama has borrowed to give his Union Friends controlling interest in General Motors and Chrysler along with bailing out Obama's friends on Wall Street.

  • sunflower1276 Nov 17, 2010

    in these economic times EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE to make CUTS SOMEWHERE!!!!! Thats how I feel. IF NOTHING ELSE FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN THAT THEY TEACH EVERYDAY. arguing isn't gonna solve anything and all it will start is more arguing like there is on this comments. Instead of working together, everyone tears each other down. THATS THE PROBLEM

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Nov 17, 2010

    "I don't see why class size has to go up."

    Because 2000 or more teachers are going to be fired. Take all those kids, divide them over X amount of classrooms across the county and wa la, that's how many more you'll have. Some grades it won't change much at all, some will be devastated. Add in the traditional schools they're are going to convert over to year round and you've got an uprising from parents in this county who have never leant an ear to education matters the likes we've never seen. All those 1,000's of parents who haven't had time or made time to pay attention to what was happening in their schools will be paying attention when this hits the fan in the next few months, but they better not wait until then to voice their concerns, they better speak out now. As should teachers. In a few months it will be too late and the cuts will be made. They're going to get made anyway, but at least most of you will feel better if you complain out loud first.

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