Local News

Teachers rally against further cuts in school budget

Posted May 15, 2010 6:06 p.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2010 10:52 p.m. EDT

— Hundreds of people rallied in downtown Raleigh Saturday against more budget cuts to North Carolina public schools.

As lawmakers face a projected $788 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that starts in July, education advocates are fighting additional spending cuts for local school districts proposed by Gov. Beverly Perdue above the $305 million already in place for the fall, arguing thousands of additional education jobs could be eliminated above the 5,000 teacher and staff positions removed this year.

“When we're cutting necessities, then things get bad, and that's where we are,” Wake County teacher Larry Nilles said at the rally, organized by "Fund Schools First."

Budget cuts mean fewer teachers and bigger class sizes. Nilles said he already has two classes at Davis Drive Middle School in Cary with 38 students each.

“If there are 38 kids as opposed to 27, that's a really big difference in terms of one-on-one time with the kids,” Nilles said.

Cindy Craven said she lost her teaching assistant job in Randolph County last year because of budget cuts.

“We've got to start and build a good foundation for our children and that is a priority,” Craven said of the important role a teacher assistant plays in the classroom.

Nilles said the looming budget cuts have also had a psychological impact on his sense of job security.

“My dad would always say, ‘I didn't want you to be a teacher at first, I wanted you to be a doctor or lawyer, but you never have to be worried about being laid off.’ Now we do,” Nilles said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said she does not envy the budget-writers task.

“They’re making decisions between bad and worse, but our message is, we fund schools first,” she said.

The school district spending cuts may shrink if Perdue is willing to give up spending on experience-based pay raises for teachers and her effort to pay back state employees and teachers the 0.5 percent salary reductions she required of them last year to close a budget shortfall.

She also wants her college- and career-ready initiative funded. The initiative would spend $39 million on hand-held computers in elementary school classrooms so teachers can better monitor student achievement.

The Senate Education Committee is expected to release its draft spending proposal Monday.