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Potential Cuts In Education May Affect Children Of Military Families

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — As thousands of North Carolina troops are sent abroad for possible war, a new problem is arising at home. The Bush administration is proposing to cut education funding for many children of military families.

At Benjamin Martin Elementary School, more than half of the students are from military families. Nearly a third of all Cumberland County students are federally connected. For that reason, Cumberland Schools are eligible for millions of dollars in impact aid.

Impact aid helps pay for their education since the county cannot collect $14 million in property and sales tax from Fort Bragg, but now President George W. Bush wants to drastically reduce the amount of money the schools will get.

"Hitting the school system such as ours with a $5 million hit does not demonstrate to me a commitment to education and commitment to quality of life for soldiers," said Dr. William Harrison, superintendent of Cumberland County schools.

If Bush's budget passes, Cumberland County could lose $1.5 million in aid this year and $5 million next year. Harrison said schoools will have to reduce elective courses and not hire as many teachers, which means more desks and students in every class.

"We'd be worried about trying to meet the instructional needs of every child by being able to have classrooms that are safe and orderly and appropriately instructed and teaching in a way that would be the best for the child's needs," principal Allison Violette said.

The latest news further complicates Cumberland County's money troubles. The county is already preparing for a huge loss in sales tax revenue because so many soldiers are deployed.

Cumberland is by far the largest county in the area that could lose money. Wayne County currently receives $874,680 in impact aid. Harnett County could lose $55,000 a year. Moore County does not have enough military children in public schools to qualify.


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