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Wake school leaders approve budget cuts

The slashing of $35 million from the school system budget means 300 teaching assistant positions have been eliminated, as well as funding for transportation and textbooks.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — More than 300 teaching assistant positions have been cut from the Wake County Public School System's spending plan.

The Board of Education on Tuesday approved more than $35 million in budget cuts because of the state budget crisis.

"We have looked at every possible option, and this has to be done. It's very troubling to us, but it has to be done," school board member Eleanor Goettee said.

Chief Business Officer David Neter said the teaching assistant cuts come down to a handful of positions at each school. "But it does make a difference," he added.

The plan also slashes $2 million from the school system's transportation budget.

Because the school system did not add any new bus routes to accommodate for three new schools, that could mean longer commutes for some students when classes at traditional-calendar schools begin next Tuesday.

"It could mean a slightly longer ride for some bus riders," the school system's transportation director, Bob Snidemiller, said. "We try to minimize that to a maximum of 45 minutes for any one student, one way."

Another cut could contribute to additional delays. To help cut down on costs, the school system's maintenance department was ordered in April to stop stocking parts. That could also contribute to longer downtime for buses out of service, if any necessary parts aren't already in inventory.

Nearly $5 million was cut from the textbook budget, which means there will be no funding to buy textbooks, such as workbooks, that can't be reused, Neter said.

"Unfortunately, there is going to be a negative impact on the classroom," Goettee said.

The district implemented a hiring freeze and tried to curb spending last fall in preparation for budget cuts.

Last spring, officials told nearly 1,500 employees whose contracts expired at the end of June not to count on having a job for the 2009-10 school year.

Last week, the school board decided to rehire 911 of those employees – including teachers, assistants and social workers.

State lawmakers cut education statewide by almost 10 percent, but they gave individual districts the flexibility to balance their budgets as needed.


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