Less than a month before public schools open across North Carolina, state lawmakers haven’t decided on a budget. And that means school officials don’t know whether they’ll have money to hire additional teachers, be forced to lay off assistants or make other crucial decisions that hinge on state spending.
House and Senate budgets, which aren’t likely to be reconciled until after school starts Aug. 24, have crucial differences. Frustration was evident as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board got an update Tuesday.
What’s at stake?
▪ The Senate budget would allow CMS to hire 138 K-3 teachers; while the House plan adds none. Most teachers have already signed contracts for the year.
▪ The Senate budget would require CMS to cut more than 500 teacher assistant jobs; the House version would add 90.
▪ Pay for teachers and other staff is unsettled.
▪ Spending for textbooks, school wifi, busing and driver’s education is unresolved.
What they’re saying
Superintendent Ann Clark: If schools open without a state budget, “we reach a crisis point very quickly.”
Board member Tim Morgan: “We’re getting ready to open our doors ... and we don’t have a clue yet if we’re going to have to (lay off) 500 teacher assistants or hire more than 100 teachers.”
Board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart: “Let your elected officials know that we should not stand for this and it’s affecting our ability to educate children.”
Why this happens
North Carolina school districts don’t have taxing authority, so they depend on state, county and federal money for their operating budgets. The state accounts for the biggest share – about 57 percent of CMS’ $1.4 billion plan – but state lawmakers seldom approve a budget in time for the July 1 start of the fiscal year. Instead, they have approved a continuance of the 2014-15 budget.
What happens next?
The House and Senate have presented budgets but haven’t crafted a plan both houses can support. Once they do, it goes to Gov. Pat McCrory for approval, then the Department of Public Instruction distributes the money.
Learn more or comment
▪ Get contacts for CMS board members and watch the meeting on video: www.cms.k12.nc.us/boe.
▪ Get contacts for state legislators and updates on the budget: http://ncga.state.nc.us/.