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Stop-Gap Funding Will Cover Teacher Salaries

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RALEIGH — Schools can't afford to wait for a budget deal before they start hiring. Twenty-thousand new students will enter North Carolina classrooms in the fall, and school districts need to hire new teachers right now.

Tuesday night, lawmakers approved a quick-fix plan, knowing they may still be in session when the new school year begins.

Five-thousand new students will start school in Wake County classrooms this fall. The district needs to hire 127 new teachers to handle the growth. They're supposed to know how much state money they'll have to spend on July 1st. But just about every year, July first comes and goes without a budget deal in place.

"It's really frustrating for both, I think, both teachers and school administrators, school board people and parents, not knowing if they're gonna have enough people in the classrooms in the fall or even in the summer," explained Bill Wilson of the Association of Educators.

It's likely the new school year will start before lawmakers agree on a budget.

"For those of you who don't have great plans for the fall, we've got some pretty foliage here in Wake County in late September and early October," said Representative Dan Blue.

Tuesday, the House and Senate approved stop-gap funding that allows school districts to hire the teachers they need. Some lawmakers say they're just as frustrated by the process as educators are.

"We're just at a take it easy pace," Blue said. "And as as I think this new budget indicates, it may well be three more months that we're here in what's supposed to be a short session."

Many lawmakers agree this year's short session won't live up to its name. It began in May, and it could be September before a budget deal is passed. The Senate wants to restrict the short session to 60 days. Members believe a self-imposed time limit would force them to work faster.

"At that time, you prepare yourself to hit that date because you know you've got to hit that," Senator Marc Basnight said. "Now you don't have to any date. There's no target. It's a moving target. You can adjust it and change it just like we're doing it now."

The House has not yet voted on restricting the length of sessions. There's no telling how long this one will last. Senators Basnight and Rand sang a chorus of "Jingle Bells" on the Senate floor. Everyone's hoping they won't still be there at Christmas time.


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