Raleigh, N.C. — Fewer teaching assistants in elementary schools, higher court fees and more charges for people who receive social services are among the ideas Republican lawmakers have proposed to cut state spending.
The House on Tuesday began unveiling its plans to reduce spending enough to erase a projected $2.4 billion deficit for the fiscal year that starts in July.
About $10.6 billion would be spent on education under the proposal, or about $1.2 billion less than current spending. Gov. Beverly Perdue included $11.4 billion for education in her budget.
Eliminating teacher assistants in the second and third grades would save the state $258 million next year, while laying off support personnel and public school administrators would cut another $118 million.
"(There) are cuts to instructional support, to some of the other funding categories that we use for supplemental services," said Leanne Winner, director of governmental relations for the North Carolina School Boards Association. "Parents will see this (affect the classrooms)."
The Smart Start pre-kindergarten program would lose about $37 million in funding, while the More at Four program would be cut by $30 million under the House spending plan, including losing space for more than 2,600 children.
The University of North Carolina system would have to cut 15 percent of its budget. Most of that $448 million would be decided by administrators of the 17 campuses, but UNC officials have said that thousands of classes would have to be eliminated and hundreds of faculty members laid off.
UNC President Tom Ross said in a statement that the cuts would inflict "irreparable damage to our academic quality and reputation," noting students might not be able to take the courses they need to graduate.
Chancellor Holden Thorp called cuts to the UNC system "disproportionate."
"There isn’t a classroom in the state that would be left untouched by the GOP’s job-killing budget," Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt said in a statement. "From preschools to elementary schools to community colleges and universities, this proposal jeopardizes the very future of our state."
Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, said lawmakers need to "stop trying to please the tea party" and work on a budget that protects education.
In addition to cuts to Smart Start, state funding for senior centers would be reduced by 47 percent and community health grants by 23 percent.
The House budget includes about $4.4 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, which is almost 11 percent less than the current budget.
Other spending plans include $58 million in increased court fees, less funding for domestic violence services and laying off 40 members of the State Capitol Police force.