Gov's bottom line: Classroom layoffs?

Gov. Bev Perdue's spokeswoman says the Senate's proposal to spend more than originally planned on education is encouraging, but it's not enough.

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Laura Leslie

Gov. Bev Perdue's office sent out this statement this afternoon in reaction to the Senate budget rollout: 

“This state was built on providing a quality education for all North Carolinians. Let me be clear: it’s a core part of who we are and what we value as a people. I’ve seen the House budget and I’m reviewing the Senate budget. By the time they come together, they need to send me a budget that protects our schools, community colleges and universities. If they pass a budget that undermines our schools and fails to protect the quality of our education system, then I will have no choice but to veto it.”

(Watch tonight's segment on the issue from the 6pm newscast at right.)

But what did the governor think of the Senate proposal itself?  I called her spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson to get a little more detail. 

"In general, the Senate makes some positive steps in the right direction," Pearson said. "Adding teachers to the classroom is always a good thing, and clearly they heard what the governor had to say about protecting the classroom."

"But they still cut the dickens out of public education," she added. "So while they may make steps in certain areas, we get the sense they’re shuffling cuts around."

Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said this morning that increased education spending is his way of signaling GOP leaders are willing to compromise with Perdue on the budget. But Pearson wasn't taking that at face value.

"I hope it’s their way of showing that they’re finally coming to understand that education is a priority for NC, not just the governor," she said. "I hope they’ve been hearing from the same people we’ve been hearing from – the families, the teachers, the business leaders who’ve been urging [Perdue] to protect education in North Carolina."

So what would "protecting education" look like? Does the governor have a do-or-die number in mind?  

Pearson sidestepped the question. "There are so many pieces to the puzzle. The easy answer is to say, 'Follow the guidelines she laid out in her own budget.' But, of course, she also included some revenue there, some investments that they seem completely unwilling to consider."

"We’d even be willing to consider a half-penny extension on the sales tax," Pearson said. "Give us some new ideas."

Pearson stressed that Perdue isn't willing to accept K-12 funding at the cost of university or community college funding. But public schools are clearly her foremost concern. "The governor has made it very clear that she wants a budget that does not fire teachers or teachers' assistants," Pearson said.  

And what if the legislature sends her a proposal that does? "She’s not afraid to veto it," Pearson replied. 



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