Superintendents tell lawmakers: Cuts are 'cancer in our budget'

Posted April 19, 2012 4:01 a.m. EDT
Updated April 19, 2012 10:30 a.m. EDT

— Members of the General Assembly brought in North Carolina school superintendents to speak about the effects of spending cuts in this year's budget and what they'd like to have for next year.

The Legislature's education oversight committee heard from school leaders in Alleghany, Jones, Lee and Winston-Salem/Forsyth counties at their meeting Thursday in Raleigh.

"Our teachers will continue to do everything they can. It’s in their blood … but you can only do so much before your creativity and innovativeness run out," said Lee County Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Moss. "The discretionary cut is a huge cancer in our budget."

Moss said he has lost about 45 positions and has had to remove some social workers and other support positions.

"We’ve reached the limit," he said. "We do want to partner with you. You can’t do it alone. We can’t do it alone."

"Numbers are crucial. Numbers are important," said Jones County Schools Superintendent Michael Bracy. "But we can’t forget the reason we are all here is because an educator helped us get where we are."

House Speaker Thom Tills said months ago lawmakers would hold legislative hearings with superintendents in districts that lay off teachers to find out why they did so. But no meeting had been scheduled until now.

Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and Republican leaders, such as Tillis, have been at odds over the extent the budget law had upon local school personnel reductions. The Legislature returns to work next month to adjust the second year of the two-year budget.

If lawmakers don’t make changes when they hold their May budget session, school districts will have to absorb $332.6 million in cuts across the state. That would amount to roughly 4 percent of the funding state taxpayers put into education this year and comes on top of hundreds of millions of dollars taken out of school budgets over the past three years.

Republican lawmakers who control the General Assembly say they would like to blunt the effect of those looming cuts. But they cannot say how they'll do that, and they've rejected outright Perdue’s call for raising the state sales tax.

Specifics vary in each of North Carolina’s 115 school districts, and some administrators say they’ll be able to avoid job losses – this year. But virtually all will take steps they would rather not, such as making bus routes longer, spending from savings, and declining to fill positions when employees leave.