Superintendent: Federal cuts to hit NC schools hard

Posted February 25, 2013 5:22 p.m. EST
Updated February 25, 2013 6:55 p.m. EST

— Federal education cuts that will take effect Friday if Congress fails to reach a compromise on the looming sequester will have dramatic impacts on classrooms, students and staff in North Carolina, State Superintendent June Atkinson said Monday.

Nationwide, education cuts weigh in at $3 billion, and the jobs of nearly 40,000 teachers and school employees could be on the chopping block. In North Carolina, the automatic budget cuts would pull $67 million from North Carolina schools, putting the jobs of about 1,500 teachers and school employees at risk, Atkinson said.

The sequester adds up to a 5 percent loss in annual federal funding, Atkinson said, and every school district in the state will feel the sting.

Worse, she said, "our children who live in poverty, our children who take career technical education courses and our students who have disabilities and exceptionalities" will be hit hardest.

Most of the cuts would take effect next school year, but some districts that get extra money for the children of active-duty military members will lose funding immediately.

"It's so frustrating to me that one of the most important aspects of what government does, which is to promote public education, is put in jeopardy," Atkinson said. 

As soon as it becomes clear whether the spending cuts will take effect, the Department of Public Instruction will send school districts their funding allotments, to allow them to plan and prepare to terminate contracts if needed, Atkinson said.

The White House released a memo Sunday detailing state-by-state impacts of the sequester, which presented a slightly different set of numbers for education cuts.

The White House estimates $25 million in cuts to North Carolina schools, putting about 350 teacher and aide jobs at risk, nearly $17 million in cuts to funding for teachers that work with students with disabilities and the elimination of Head Start and Early Head Start programs for about 1,500 children.