School leaders predict bleak future for public education

Posted June 14, 2010 7:36 p.m. EDT
Updated June 14, 2010 11:15 p.m. EDT

School Funding (Generic)

— Nearly two dozen school system superintendents from across North Carolina held a news conference in Raleigh on Monday to illustrate how proposed state budget cuts could hurt their students.

"We are at the end of our ability to make it work,” state school Superintendent June Atkinson said.

In Johnston County, there are lay-offs. In Chatham County, buses are barely able to get students to school. In Granville County, schools can't be kept clean, and in Forsyth County, schools are cutting courses.

"Quite frankly, we are frustrated,” Wilson County School District Superintendent Larry Price said.

Price said his county is dealing with larger class sizes and fewer positions. It’s among the many problems school districts across the state are dealing with.

"We are asking them (teachers) to literally take days without pay,” said Don Martin, the superintendent of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

One by one, district leaders presented the challenges they will face if the state makes more cuts to public education.

"More arts and electives and foreign language and advanced placement classes will need to dropped," Wake County interim Superintendent Donna Hargens said. "The ability to support 21st Century learning initiatives will be handcuffed. With more cuts, we will be taking a giant step backward."

As schools looks for extra funds, budget negotiations continue between the state House of Representatives and the state Senate.

"No one wants to cut education anywhere and our priority is on preserving the classroom,” GOP Sen. Richard Stevens of Wake County said.

Lawmakers say they are continuing to work to save money in the budget for schools.

For example, Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, who is the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, says there are conversations between both chambers of the General Assembly on using an additional $90 million lottery funds to make up budget gaps.

"We can eliminate all the classroom cuts and instructional cuts throughout the state,” Glazier said of his proposal.