Local News

NC Governor's School to stay open this summer

Posted February 3, 2012

— A pioneering summer program for gifted high school students in North Carolina will live on for a 50th year after alumni and other donors stepped in with cash in the months since state lawmakers eliminated funding.

The state Board of Education on Thursday authorized the state's public school agency to decide the scope of this summer's North Carolina Governor's School based on funds raised by Feb. 10.

"We realize this is for this summer only and we hope the General Assembly will reconsider and provide the funds for the Governor's School," state school board chairman Bill Harrison said.

Slightly more than $500,000 has been collected so far, and Harrison said he expects a foundation or two to add another $200,000 within days.

The extra money would give at least 500 students, at least one from each of the state's 115 public school districts, five weeks of the enrichment program on two college campuses.

That is scaled back from last year's six-week summer camp for 600 students at Salem College in Winston-Salem and Meredith College in Raleigh. The General Assembly last year eliminated the program's $849,000 annual funding, citing the need for cuts to close the state's $2.5 billion budget shortfall.

Michael McElreath, director of Governor's School East at Meredith College, said Friday that although there are fewer students and a shorter session, it's better than nothing.

"We're thrilled. This is the biggest news we could possibly have hoped for," he said. "What we most want to do is see Governor's School restored to its full status, and the best way to do that is to make sure we maintain (the program)."

The state school board will ask state lawmakers to restore the state funding for 2013.

"It's not something we could ever repeat, but we are hopeful that seeing the strong show of support for the program that the legislature will come back in and support it in the future," McElreath said.

State school board member Wayne McDevitt, a Democrat, criticized the Republican-led General Assembly for eliminating the Governor's School while simultaneously choosing to spend $3.7 million to pay for liability insurance for teachers.

The move was seen as undercutting the Democrat-friendly North Carolina Association of Educators, which offered the coverage as a membership benefit.

More than 31,000 students have attended the Governor's School since it started in 1963.

Until last year, the program was free, but 2010 state budget cuts forced the school board to charge $500 last summer. Fundraisers and alumni say keeping the program free is essential because charging tuition would make it unavailable to many students who qualify.

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