Local News

Committee: Wake County Needs More Money To Stay Ahead Of Class

Posted February 20, 2003 9:53 a.m. EST

— Wake County schools spends $7 million a year on hiring teachers to keep up with growth and to replace those who move on. A citizen advisory committee believes fewer teachers would leave and more quality teachers would come if the county spends more money in the right areas.

The committee recommends more resource teachers in middle schools, new teachers in each elementary schools to reduce class size and hiring 100 new bilingual teachers. The committee also suggests creating new pre-kindergarten classes for at-risk 4-year-olds.

The committee wants to improve teacher pay, promotion and training opportunities.

Overall, the committee says nearly $150 million should help the school system reach its goal of getting 95 percent of third- through eighth-graders scoring at or above grade level.

"I think it's a great step forward. It's taken two years to get here. It's a very positive day for both the county and the school district," said Bill Fletcher, chairman of the Wake County school board.

Now the school board will consider the recommendations and pass the funding requests on to county commissioners. If it means higher taxes, the committee's work may amount to a wish list.

"It is a wish list. It's exactly what it is, and I wish that we would be able to give all of it to them, but I don't think we can," said Wake County commissioner Phil Jeffries.

The committee also suggests turning to a private firm to hire substitute teachers. The goal is to make sure someone is always available to step in for teachers who leave or for those who simply need time to develop class plans.

Wake County schools get less money per student from local government than anyone else in the Triangle.

In the latest figures released by the state, Wake gets $1,905 per pupil from local funds. Durham County gets $2,491 per pupil and Orange County gets $2,592 from their local governments. Chapel Hill gets $3,684 per pupil, which is the highest in the state.