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House budget plan concerns educators, parents

The plan calls for shortening the school year by as many as 10 days and cutting thousands of teaching jobs across the state.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The school year could be shortened by as much as 10 days over the next two years under the state House of Representatives proposed education budget.

The plan calls for shortening the 2009-10 school year by five days and cutting it by an additional five the following year.

Education leaders said Friday that cutting days will cut into transition time – periods in which there is not serious classroom instruction happening, such as the first and last days of school.

"Regardless of whether we have 300 days of school or 150 days of school, we have to have transitional time," said June Atkinson, state superintendent of public instruction.

But in tough economic times, state lawmakers say they have to cut $1.8 billion from a $12 billion education budget.

"That kind of cut has never had to occur in this state's history," Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Fayetteville, said.

They say there is no choice but to make an impact on education.

"There's no way to do that without dramatically affecting the academic integrity of public schools," Glazier said.

Some parents and educators say they are worried schools will make a turn for the worse.

"No days for educating kids is a throw-away day," said Fred Hutchinson, a parent at Powell Elementary School in Raleigh.

"We're just going to get further behind other countries that way," parent Margaret Bartholomew said. "We need to give them as much education as we can."

House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, said Friday that the proposed education budget is a work in progress and the specifics laid out so far are just options.

Other details of the House budget plan including cutting more than 11,000 teaching jobs – about 6,000 classroom teachers and 4,600 teacher assistants – and hundreds more jobs in schools.

Also proposed is cutting funding for certain programs, such as More at Four – a pre-kindergarten program that provides teachers to help children from low-income families get ready for kindergarten – and eliminating others.

The House and Senate have to bring their plans together before it goes to Gov. Bev Perdue.


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