Proposed cuts frustrate school officials, students, Dems

Posted May 11, 2011 6:57 p.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2011 7:18 p.m. EDT

State budget

— Educators, students and Democratic lawmakers expressed outrage Wednesday about Senate Republicans' proposal to make deeper cuts to state education spending than those approved last week in the House.

The spending targets set by the Senate include $40 million less for education than the House budget. That includes another $106 million from the state's public schools and $21 million from community colleges, while the University of North Carolina system would gain about $87 million.

"This is devastating for our state," said Sen. Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth.

A member of the Senate Education Committee, Garrou said Democrats are saddened, frustrated and discouraged by what they're seeing.

"We're responsible for the main part of the (budget) meal, and you've given us baloney," she said. "Folks with children in schools – all levels – should be upset by it."

Education spending accounts for more than half of the state budget, and estimates of job losses because of the cuts range from 18,000 to 30,000.

Wake Technical Community College President Stephen Scott said he felt "anger, shock (and) surprise" when he learned of the proposed Senate cuts.

Scott said Wake Tech had budgeted for a 10 percent cut based on the House plan, including slashing courses and laying off instructors. Under the Senate plan, the school would have to cut by 12 percent, he said.

Republican lawmakers said they're acting responsibly.

"If you don't have the money, you have to make the cuts somewhere. Every businessman I know faces that. Every head of household faces that," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph.

Tillman, who is co-chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said people need to be patient.

"When this economy picks up and there's availability, you're going to see some innovative, good things done for education," he said.

Wake Tech student James Brooks said he just wants the chance to take his classes and show he can be successful. He has been unable to sign up for classes this summer because they are all overcapacity.

About 3,000 students are on waiting lists this summer at Wake Tech, Scott said. A combined 10,000 students were on waiting lists in the fall and spring semesters, he said.

"It's a little disappointing. I'd like to finish as soon as possible," Brooks said.