Perdue continues to hammer on education cuts

Posted June 7, 2011 6:26 p.m. EDT
Updated June 7, 2011 7:00 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Beverly Perdue cited improvements in North Carolina's high school graduation rate Tuesday as evidence that the state needs to continue to invest in education.

Perdue is weighing a possible veto to the $19.7 billion state budget passed last week by lawmakers, saying the proposed cuts to education spending are too deep. She carried that message to the North Carolina Business Committee for Education, a group of large corporations focused on the link between education and economic development.

"I wonder what's going to happen to North Carolina, watching the General Assembly cut something as critical to the backbone of this state as Smart Start and More at Four," she said.

The two early childhood education programs would be consolidated and sustain large funding cuts under the proposed budget. The organization that served as a clearinghouse for Smart Start funding statewide also would be dismantled.

Perdue said the cuts extend from those programs through higher education.

"Doing what they're doing with workforce (development) at the community colleges is backing away from the investment in higher education that has built North Carolina. It makes me sad for our state and our people," she said.

Republican legislative leaders contend that their budget reduces class sizes in grades 1-3 by adding 1,100 teachers and spends thousands of dollars to study third-grade literacy programs.

Many of the business leaders at the NCBCE luncheon said they aren't taking a side in the budget debate.

"Leaders in both parties have real challenging decisions to make right now," said Albert Eckel, chairman of the group.

Businessman Andre Peek said he believes both sides invest in education but in different ways.

"I think there are merits on both sides," Peek said. "There are difficult choices we need to make as a state and as individuals."

Eckel, whose 5-year-old daughter will enter kindergarten in the fall, said he has a vested interest in the outcome.

"I want to make sure our investment in the future is being taken care of," he said.