Loss of stimulus money could mean deeper school budget cuts

Posted May 25, 2010 7:11 p.m. EDT

School Funding (Generic)

— As Wake County and school systems across the state consider budget cuts for the 2010-11 school year, they could also be facing even more cuts in 2011-12.

That's when $900 million in federal stimulus funding runs out. How the loss of the funding will affect each district varies.

In the Wake County Public School System, which received $85.6 million in stimulus funds, it could mean a loss of more than 550 positions in pre-kindergarten and math tutoring programs, as well as janitorial and clerical jobs.

"We increased our pre-K program. Are we going to be able to continue that? I think that's unlikely if the stimulus money is not there," school board member Ann McLaurin said.

Wake County did not use the stimulus money to specifically hire teachers, so those jobs are not at risk, but that's not the case in other school districts.

State leaders fear that, when the stimulus money runs out, thousands will be out of work.

"We are fearful of that cliff," June Atkinson, state Superintendent of Public Schools, said. "We are very fearful in public education that we won't be able to recover for many, many years."

It's one reason that state educators are urging lawmakers not to cut local funding any further.

Although Wake County has planned for the money not being there, board member John Tedesco says filling budget gaps could mean deeper cuts.

"We need our state legislators, who claim to be in favor of education, our governor, who claims to be an education governor, to put their money where their mouth is and help the school system out," he said.