Education

Hundreds of Wake teacher jobs could be at risk

Posted January 18, 2011 6:09 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2011 12:11 p.m. EST

— State budget cuts could mean the loss of hundreds of teacher positions in Wake County for the 2011-12 academic year, school board members learned Tuesday.

According to preliminary numbers from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, anywhere from 260 to 360 positions could be eliminated as part of efforts to decrease funding by 5 to 10 percent. All departments are looking for ways to make up for a projected $3.7 billion state budget shortfall.

But school system staff said during a Wake school board work session Tuesday that an expected increased enrollment of 4,000 students could keep those teacher positions from being cut. There are more than 9,000 teachers in the district this year.

The numbers are estimates, as the governor and General Assembly still have to negotiate the state spending plan.

The Wake County Public School System itself is facing a potential $100 million deficit for the upcoming school year, and board members spent part of Tuesday discussing where they could reduce spending.

“This is going to be an extremely difficult year. That last one was bad. This one is going to be a horror,” school board Chairman Ron Margiotta said.

Early childhood education and assistance for at-risk students are two areas where board members say they don’t want to see funding cut. Transportation is an area where some board members want to reduce costs.

Board member Keith Sutton wants to establish a “respectable” per-pupil spending level for the district and ask state and county leaders to fund to that level. Right now, Wake County spends nearly $7,900 per student. According to local nonprofit think-tank The Forum, the state average is more than $8,700.

Regardless of funding, school system officials and staff say students will feel the budget cuts with, among other things, larger class sizes.

The Center for Public Education predicts times will remain tight for school boards even though the economy may show signs of a turnaround. They suggest budgets will not be back at pre-recession levels until the end of this decade.