Senator: NC classroom layoffs will decrease

Posted October 4, 2011

— The number of layoffs in North Carolina public school classrooms this school year will be much lower than what was reported to educators when classes began in August, a Republican budget-writer predicted Tuesday.

The forecast by Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, is the latest argument over a state budget approved in June that GOP leaders said contained enough funding for local school districts to preserve teacher and teaching assistant positions.

Democrats say that didn't happen, and point to state education data showing 2,421 educators were cut as the school year began, including 534 teachers and 1,260 teaching assistants, according to the Department of Public Instruction. The agency also said the state's 115 school districts have eliminated 6,383 positions this fiscal year, but a majority of them already were vacant.

Tillman said the figure of almost 1,800 isn't accurate right now because districts hire in the first few weeks of classes as districts figure out their staffing needs for the entire school year. State employment figures for September released later this month should prove it, he said.

"You will see that there are few if any teacher positions lost or teacher assistants," Tillman told reporters before a meeting of the legislature's education oversight committee. "When it's all said and done and all positions are hired ... you will find that's not the case."

Tillman's views don't jibe with the reality in the school districts, said Brian Lewis, a lobbyist for the North Carolina Association of Educators, the state's leading teacher lobbying group.

Although the Republican-penned budget gives $61.7 million to local school districts to hire another 1,124 teachers in grades 1-3, Lewis said the size of third-grade classes are ballooning well above the fiscal allotment to provide one teacher for every 18 students.

"We have fewer adults teaching more children," Lewis said. He said cuts in the overall public schools budget — a net $459 million reduction compared to what was projected to keep the schools running at current levels this year — still results in layoffs.

"I would get out of the prediction business," Lewis said. "I would figure out how we can fund public education at the level parents and their children deserve."

The budget required school districts to find another $124 million in spending cuts this school year, as well as to cut funds for assistant principals, central office staff and clerical and janitorial workers. Tillman and other Republicans have said school district leaders had flexibility to preserve classroom positions if they want to do so. The districts also had a combined $250 million in federal education jobs funds that state education officials would save about 5,000 jobs this school year.

The Department of Public Instruction's media office didn't return a phone call and emails Tuesday seeking information on updated data from the school districts.

A new liberal-leaning watchdog group called Progress North Carolina held a news conference outside a legislative office building before the meeting was scheduled to demand Republican leaders acknowledge their budget problems. The committee didn't discuss the job cuts.

"They're not owning up to the disconnect," said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC. "They need to get with the program."

The group brought about 2,000 "pink slips" to its event to display the classroom impact of the Republican-backed budget.

"They pulled the money, and they passed the buck on who's to blame for the cuts to the classroom," Brenner said.

Tillman countered that school districts could have made other cuts and kept teachers and teaching assistants.

"People play games with those numbers, but I'm just telling you what I know we funded," he said. "I'm not telling you how the superintendents choose to use that. We want them to have flexibility. They need it. But we did try to protect the classroom."

House Speaker Thom Tillis said during the legislative session lawmakers would hold legislative hearings with school superintendents in districts that lay off teachers to find out why. The hearings have yet to be scheduled.


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  • jellybiscuit Oct 6, 2011

    Clearly the Republican party line is to just keep lying about the issue until a) people forget about it or b) people start to believe the lies.

    The conservative goal is to continue to undermine the public schools. This supports their overall agenda of the privatization of education. Don't get me wrong... people like Tillman might not be aware of what they're doing. Most of them are cronies just following the party line script. I'm referring to the people who handed the script down to the state level. Remember, Tillis has already been commended by the party for accomplishing so many items on their checklist.

  • Plenty Coups Oct 5, 2011

    gunny-"New teachers may make $31K, so what?"

    This is supposed to attract top talent? Staying at 31K for 4 years and counting????? When the avg. pay for new college graduates is over 50K? Now they'll have a terrible health care plan to go w/ it.

    College graduate surveys showing average NEW salaries:

  • Plenty Coups Oct 5, 2011

    Gunny-"Post a link with proof"
    Happy to. Wish you would for once.
    Here's more:

    Thom Tillis says teachers "“don’t care about kids. They don’t care about classrooms. They only care about their jobs and their pensions.”

    1.He (along w/ other republicans) then vote to stop automatic check deductions to fund NCAE.

    2. Teachers now will not be paid for the month of August as the Legislature ended pre-payment since teachers usually only work half of August and June. Now they'll have to wait till June to get paid. Again, a petty "we'll show you".

    3. No more mentor pay for teachers. (pg. 12 of link)

    4. No more step pay increases (pg. 11)

    5. They also end funding of NCAT and teaching fellows since they might be made up of teachers who are NCAE members. (guilt by association)

    6. No more "merit pay" for raising student test scores.

    7. 20-30% Higher health care costs this year alone.

    Documented proof:

  • Plenty Coups Oct 5, 2011

    Plenty-"This man and his partners are making it obvious that education is no longer a priority with the new boys in charge of the General Assembly"

    gunny-"Post a link with proof"

    When faced with a choice between funding education and cutting the one percent sales tax, as well as corporate taxes versus properly funding education, the republican dominated Legislature chose to further cut these taxes rather than support education. They voluntarily gave up well over a billion dollars in revenue at a time when teachers have had their salaries frozen for years. It's pretty clear with their actions what their priorities are. Their comments also make it obvious. They dropped education spending to 49th in the nation.

    49th in education link:

    Republicans end sales tax:

  • jason19 Oct 5, 2011

    "Hmmm, interestingly enough...we seem to be getting along just fine with the number of teachers we currently have...go figure...they always go on and on and on about class size but growing up we always had 30+ kids in our classes...that is not the problem..."

    No offense to you personally, but the baby boomer generation -- the one with the large classes sizes -- is probably the laziest, least-intelligent generation that America has seen in comparison to foreign countries at the time of the generation. They harp the most about hard work but have done the very least amount of it of any modern generation. They have ridden the coat tails of their parents like no other generation and are -- by far -- the biggest undue complainers. They're the generation of "I worked hard and had no help getting here!"

    If anything, baby boomers should be a lesson learned about the faults of large class sizes due to their continually unfounded comments.

  • bill0 Oct 5, 2011

    "New teachers may make $31K, so what?"

    So what? If you want to attract top talent, then the starting salary is critical.

    "the quality of education has gone UP,"

    Well, if that is your claim, then you should be thanking democrats, not republicans. The republican legislature hasn't been in charge long enough to even have test results on at this point. Even on a local level, the Wake school board has talked a big game, but have yet to even vote on a new policy let alone implement it.

  • gunny462 Oct 5, 2011

    "This man and his partners are making it obvious that education is no longer a priority with the new boys in charge of the General Assembly"

    Post a link with proof

  • gunny462 Oct 5, 2011

    "I'm sure there's so many great teachers who want to join the profession here in NC after getting an expensive 4 year degree, teacher certification, all for a salary that remains frozen at 31K per year with lousy benefits. Plenty Coups"

    Why the lies again? Teacher's pay is frozen at the amount they were making upon the freeze. New teachers may make $31K, so what?

    Also, the quality of education has gone UP, and school crime is down in this state under Republican leadership but you fail to mention that.

  • gunny462 Oct 5, 2011

    "Amazingly, when it comes to special sessions to bash gays, mandatory counseling for abortion, voter IDS, and raises for Tillis' staff, we're no longer broke. I will agree that the democrats haven't been a whole lot better w/ their support of education but they have been better. In the 15 years I've been in this state, not once has any republican EVER voted to increase teacher pay. Not once. Plenty Coups"

    Please post a link, any if you can find one that republicans in office 'bash' gays, Abortions? On MY dime I want to abolish it, there are already 2 SOCIAL programs for this why have another?
    Recently a study was submitted that showed 20% of votes my be contributed to voter fraud in this state, plus the 4-5 cases they found just last week. YOU bring up Tillis who cut or moved the staffers but FAIL to bring up Etheridge who MAKES MORE than ALL of the staffers combined?

  • RandolphBloke Oct 4, 2011

    Tillman is the only choice in my area. (Dems can't win so they don't even run.) He's the biggest failure of a state senator I've ever witnessed. Follow him on Facebook and you'll see what I mean. He posts nothing but divisive comments that are never backed up by fact. Ridiculous and blind followers all harp in how thankful they are for him. Post some facts on there and you'll be swamped with by his harpies.