The recently unveiled North Carolina Senate budget proposal for 2013-2014 represents one of the most significantly damaging legislative endeavors in the history of public education in this state. The Senate proposal undermines many previous long term investments in public education, and as such is a remarkably retrogressive set of recommendations that threaten to destabilize the vital mission of our publicly financed schools in North Carolina. It is imperative that all of us who value the institution of education speak now and implore the North Carolina House of Representatives to act with a higher regard for public education and reject the draconian measures proposed by the Senate.
Among other measures, the Senate proposal calls for the following:
- Permanently cutting more services to students while creating the false appearance of restoring $376 million to local school districts. In exchange for the discretionary cut, the Senate proposes over $354 million in line item cuts in the areas of teaching personnel, instructional support personnel, instructional supplies, school bus replacement, and low wealth supplemental funding.
-The elimination of 4,000 teacher assistants. In excess of Governor McCrory’s proposal for already large cuts to teacher assistants, the Senate has proposed an increase in cuts that would eliminate 4,000 positions.
- Increase in class sizes in critical early primary grades. Despite the research-based findings supporting the effectiveness of reduced class size, Senate language in the proposal allows for the repealing of class size ratios.
- No pay increases for public school teachers. Despite the virtual freezing of the state salary schedule since 2008 which has resulted in North Carolina’s having the dubious distinction of ranking 46th in the country in average teacher salary, the Senate proposes yet again no increase for teachers.
- Eliminate Masters and Doctorate degree pay by 2014. One of the few methods of receiving enhanced pay as a teacher in North Carolina is through the earning of a higher degree. In addition to receiving no compensation for the great expense of enrollment in graduate and doctoral programs which is already the status quo, the Senate is proposing removing all financial incentive by eliminating all salary “bumps” for teachers who have earned higher degrees.
- End tenure for all teachers. Eliminate all due process rights for teachers by placing them on one or four-year contracts. While no educator objects to the need to sustain a responsible and effective work force, superlative teachers could very easily be replaced with a younger and relatively inexpensive workforce should local budget constraints require it.
- Eliminate all funding for the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. One of the few remaining venues for North Carolina educators for paid professional development and renewal is NCCAT. This nationally recognized program held in the highest esteem by North Carolina teachers provides some of the most in-depth and immersive professional development to be had across the state. Not surprisingly, yet disappointingly, the Senate has recommended that NCCAT be shuttered.
The proposed cuts, should they become law, would do the following:
- Permanently cut necessary services to students by requiring local school systems to make line item cuts totaling over $354 million, primarily in the areas of personnel and instructional supplies
- Eliminate 4,000 much-needed teacher assistants in the primary grades
- Allow for the repeal of class size ratios which currently allow teachers to provide more focused instruction
- Deny educators any pay increase by once again suspending the state salary schedule, which has already been in virtual suspension since 2008.
- Discourage educators from pursuing Masters or Doctoral degrees by eliminating all higher degree pay
- End due process rights for teachers by completely removing all tenure protections
- Shutter the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) and deprive educators of perhaps the single greatest resource for professional development and renewal
We ask that the North Carolina House of Representatives reject these cuts which do nothing but damage the public education model for which this state was once highly regarded. We implore the House to protect the investments we have made in our public schools. If such protections are provided, we will be empowered to restore our state to its rightful position as a national leader in public education.