Bev Perdue became the first governor to ever veto a budget bill when she rejected the Republicans’ proposal this month. Perdue argued that the hardest thing to accept about the bill is the steep cuts to education.
“We are trying to do more with less,” Perdue said in a press conference. “The problem arises from the Republicans refusing to extend the temporary tax. By doing so, they are cutting out a large portion of funds, which means cutting back on everything else as well to compensate for the loss.”
With the temporary tax in place, Rep. Phil Haire (D-Jackson) explained that there is $11 million of state money going back into circulation. This is what the Republicans wish to do away with. The tax ends with the fiscal year at the end of June, Haire said, speaking before the General Assembly voted to override Perdue’s veto on June 15. Republicans said they would never extend the temporary tax because they ran their campaign on a “no new tax platform.” However, doing so unbalances Perdue’s budget, causing even more problems, said Haire.
To compensate for the decrease of funds Republicans are cutting every agency, he added. One of the hardest hit is education. The only jobs protected by Perdue's proposal is teachers and teacher's assistants. Perdue said in a recent news conference that “those educators are building our future. It's the most incredibly economic investment that we can make.”
The House proposed a cut of 17.4 percent, or $483 million, to the UNC system and the Senate proposed a cut of 12.4 percent, or $359 million.
There is some discrepancy between parties regarding how much is being done away with and how much is going to be protected. Phil Haire commented that by cutting so much to education, the Republicans would be taking a state that is one of the highest rated states in the nation for education and plummeting it to the bottom. For example, Southwestern Community College has been named one of the top five community colleges in the nation, however, Connie Haire, SCC vice-president, said that by cutting educational funding, the college would have to compensate by cutting courses, cutting classroom hours, and combining classes.
Western Carolina University's overall budget is being cut by 12%. That first reduces programs like the Learning Success, Supplemental Instruction (tutoring), and Student Support Services.
Representative Jim Davis disagrees however. He said that North Carolina was ranked 43rd in the overall graduation rates. He further stated that “for too long, politicians have simply thrown taxpayer money at our educational system, hoping such actions would rectify our problems. It hasn’t. We must explore other solutions to ensure that North Carolina is a national leader in education ... I wish we could fully fund every program in this state, but it is my belief that for North Carolina's long-term stability and success, we have no choice but to pass this budget to get our state on the path to fiscal sanity.”
What does this mean for teachers?
According to Davis, their jobs will be protected. In fact, he said that the budget allows to add 1,100 new teachers to grades 1 through 3. And teachers would be placed on a “performance based pay system.” Basically, the teacher would be paid according to how well his/her students learn.
Here again, there is discrepancy. Phil Haire states that it is projected that all teachers assistants for 2nd and 3rd grades would be eliminated all across the state.
Regardless if the budget is viewed as right or wrong, it will take effect July 1, 2011.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” With that in mind, what will North Carolina's budget mean for the classroom and what effect will it have on the future?