GOP budget writers eye teaching jobs

Posted March 4, 2011

— Republican lawmakers said Friday that they are considering cutting between 5 to 10 percent of North Carolina’s teaching positions to help meet their spending targets for the 2011 fiscal year.

Last month, the GOP-controlled General Assembly set an $18.3 billion spending target for the 2011 fiscal year – about $1.6 billion less than what Gov. Bev Perdue proposed. More than half of the GOP’s allotted funds would go toward education; the governor said she would protect all state-funded teaching positions.

Acting on their promise of no new taxes, Republicans are looking to cut more than $1 billion from education, including low-performing and ineffective teachers.

“Public schools are going to be squeezed hard,” said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, a former principal and assistant school superintendent. “I know what it takes to run a school system. It takes a lot of money. I also know that when there's dead wood, dead wood has to go.”

Senior budget writer Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said the plan would also reward teachers who are doing their jobs.

“We’re going to offer a carrot along with the stick,” he said. “Somehow, we’re going to offer incentive pay for really good teachers or really good employees.”

Lawmakers, however, are unsure about how to carry out the plan, and that concerns state education leaders who said any evaluation of teacher quality would require an unbiased, research-based system in place before making the decision of who to eliminate.

Low-performing NC teachers’ jobs could be at risk Low-performing NC teachers’ jobs could be at risk

“Without an equitable way, without a fair way of determining the teachers that are doing well and the teachers that are not doing well, we're in muddy water,” Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said.

Atkinson said that the state does have a system in place but that there is not enough data yet to make those decisions.

She and other educators also don’t think that a supervisor’s opinion or student test scores are an adequate guage of teacher effectiveness since students learn differently and come from different backgrounds that can sometimes pose challenges in the classroom.

“I believe it should be multiple measures over multiple times.” Atkinson said.

One option to evaluate teachers’ job performance, Tillman said, is to seek guidance from the North Carolina Association of Educators, but NCAE President Sheri Strickland says every classroom position, including support staff, is needed.

“We will not help them come up with a system that would eliminate teaching positions,” she said.

Gov. Bev Perdue agrees.

“She’s not about protecting teachers but about protecting teaching positions and putting the best people in those positions,” Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said. “She believes that low-performing teachers should not be tolerated but that they should be replaced by high-quality, high-performing teachers.

Under the Senate plan, those teachers would not be replaced. Instead, lawmakers said, class sizes would increase by about two students.

Joan Celestino, a Forsyth County middle school teacher, said teachers could also have to take on additional classes that cut into time used for planning and professional development.

“It’s hard for many teachers, because we’ve already cut most of our professional development money, and that cuts down on how we can help teachers improve,” she said. “I do know that most teachers are working extremely hard and are trying very hard to do their very best. It is a hard job.”

Still, Tillman said, the state cannot afford to keep low-performing teachers in such a budget crisis.

“I wouldn’t cut a dime, if it were left just up to me and we had tons of money,” he said. “But the real world and the people on the street know we only got this amount of money and they sent us down here to live within our means.”

Still, he said, he remains optimistic about the state’s long-term future.

“We can do some great things once we get out of this (budget) hole, but it’s going to be ugly for two to four years,” he said.


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  • littleriver69 Mar 9, 2011

    North Carolina...1st in pig farming.....last in Education!

  • f8nbther Mar 8, 2011

    If the pubs are trying to destroy public education they are going to have one little problem . . . the State Constitution which requires a free public education for all North Carolinians. The Constitution also provides for a State supported university "as free as practicable." Someone somewhere sometime is going to sue the state and they will win based on the Constitution.

  • teacher2X4 Mar 8, 2011

    I can believe that many are vilifying teachers because no one wants to place the blame for a childs education where it belongs, on the parents. It's funny how I can stand in front of a class and somehow ONLY reach the students who have parents who are involved in their childs education. Yet my job may now be on the line because I teach at a title 1 school that has a population over 60% Hispanic who come to school day 1 speaking no English. And it's ALLmy fault if they don't learn at the same pace as students at other schools?
    You see, this is why there can NEVER be a fair evaluation of teacher performance because you have a variable that can't be measured, parental involvement and a childs home life.
    The biggest problem with cutting education to save money is that you are mortgaging our future to save money now and 10 years from now when we have high drop out rates in high school you will blame it on teachers, not the cuts made to education a decade earlier.

  • teacher2X4 Mar 8, 2011

    1. There are no Unions in NC.
    2. I taught in another state in which I made $20,000 per year, teachers in NC are underpaid based on their qualifications.
    3. I'm sick of state employees being villified for doing nothing but actually going to work each day and doing their jobs. No one has a problem with people collecting welfare or unemployment. No one has a problem with banks and executives getting bailouts or corporations getting special tax cuts to come to NC. All people want to do is blame the people who work for a living.
    4. If Tillman wants to "cut dead wood" I really don't have an issue with it but they have to come up with a fair evaluation of how effective a teacher is. You can not rely on test score alone. if that were the case then NO ONE would want to teach in a title 1 school because they would be in fear of losing their job each year. you have to take into account what a child brings to the classroom, and teacher evaluations don't do that. A teacher should be evaluated on st

  • dukerk Mar 7, 2011

    In the comment made by Sen. Neal Hunt, as found at the broadcast link, the telling point is that the number of teachers to be fired (5-10%) is based "on how the numbers work out," which appears to be a reference to the budget, not to some standard of measuring poor performance. That is to say, the act of balancing the budget will determine the "dead wood" (the Tillman phrase), rather than a real performance standard. Firing teachers on the basis of "performance" is, therefore, an empty rationalizing -- or better, a nice "sound bite."

  • Kristen168 Mar 7, 2011

    I can't believe Republican politicians unified across the nation to attack teachers and state employees. I want to know right now what THEIR educations and experience are to put such an evil onus on teachers. What needs to happen is that the N&O finds out exactly how much money has been diverted away from education and the pension plans exactly what has been lost on Wall St. and/or diverted to other projects. People... it doesn't matter whether NC is unionized or not, they're doing the same thing to everybody. In Ohio the state does not take Social Security out. Workers contribute 8% of their salaries to retirement. Now they want to take that away. It happened to Eastern Airlines in the early 80s. The CEO put major money in another airline and then Eastern went down. Those employees did not get their retirement, and Geo. W. Bush refused to intervene.

  • InterestedNurse Mar 7, 2011

    I'm not a teacher, but my mother-in-law is. She teaches eight grade in a county that will remain nameless. She was telling me over the weekend about the way she budgets for her kids. She buys incredible amounts of supplies out of pocket. She also said that the school requires her to buy supplies from one company, where as Walmart would be much less expensive. She is also allowed one pack of paper per day (for ALL of her classes). Word problem!!! If a class is about thirty students, and there are four classes...how on earth does she provide handouts, tests, worksheets, and study-guides for all of them? So sad.

  • Bendal1 Mar 7, 2011

    I guess the students of low-performing teachers are on their own next year, after the teachers are fired. The claim that "class size would increase by 2 students" sounds like bull; for example, if a 5th grade teacher is fired, that's 28 students that need a teacher next year. Do they get spread around to 14 other sixth grade teachers next year? Now multiply that by 10, or 50, or 100.

    I agree with comments saying this is part of the GOP plan to defund and destroy public schools. As far as they're concerned, let the corporations and churches (the right church, of course) teach the kids, so they'll be good, fact-distrusting, right thinking consumers when they grow up!

  • josephlawrence43 Mar 7, 2011

    Has anybody seen any mention at all regarding the illegal aliens in NC that cost the people of this state approximately $1.3 Billion per year??? I haven't

  • superman Mar 7, 2011

    Even if they fire low performing teachers they will have to replace them. Who is going to be in the classroom with the students. The suggestion of increasing class size by 2 students probably wont make that much diffeence --schools might have to go with combining two grade levels. Students dont come to school bundled in groups of 32 or whatever the class size is now.