Wake education leaders ask lawmakers for better budget

Posted March 21, 2011 6:04 p.m. EDT
Updated March 21, 2011 10:57 p.m. EDT

— Education leaders in Wake County met with state lawmakers Monday, begging for a budget that goes easy on academics.

North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson said funding reductions will hurt the university.

"It will result in fewer faculty, will result in more seats in sections," Woodson said. "Longer term to graduation, it will reduce our ability to deliver on that."

Tuition is up 40 percent at N.C. State and students say they're carrying a heavy financial burden to get a college education.

"I know a lot of my friends are getting jobs during school," said student Cary Meyer.

During Monday's meeting, Woodson joined leaders from Wake County schools and Wake Technical Community College in presenting budget proposals to legislators, who warned that cuts could be severe in the face of a projected $2.5 billion state budget deficit.

"We are worried about being able to protect the academic core," Woodson said.

Rep. Rosa Gill (D-Wake), a former school board member, said the issue of education funding is close to her heart.

"I am going to be working hard to see where we can find funding," she said.

But Sen. Neal Hunt (R-Wake) said cuts were not only inevitable, they might be "painful."

"We are in challenging times, as you know," Hunt said. He said N.C. State and Wake Tech could be facing cuts of 10 percent or more, but that he hoped the budget would allow for less severe funding reductions for K-12 education.

Wake County Schools Superintendent Tony Tata said the district could make do with the proposed 5 percent cuts, but "all bets are off the table" if cuts are deeper than that. He presented his budget proposal, which prioritizes teacher retention and classroom resources, to the school board last week.

School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta said he wants to see policy changes to how schools are accredited after AdvancED, the company that accredits the district's high schools, released a report last week that was very critical of governance at Wake schools.