At a work session Tuesday, the Wake County Board of Education continued its review of Superintendent Tony Tata’s proposed budget — now considering the General Assembly’s potential deep cuts to education.
The budget reductions proposed by the North Carolina House of Representatives feature an 8.8 percent reduction in funding for public education, including elimination of funding for teacher assistants beyond first grade and a 21 percent decrease in funding for assistant principals.
Tata’s budget, released last month, assumes only a 5 percent reduction in state education funding.
If house budget cuts were enacted, the district would move to help mitigate the impact on classrooms by shifting all teacher assistants from 10-month contracts to 9.25-month contracts, saving about $2 million.
The district could also eliminate teacher assistant positions when contracts expire.
Beyond that, the board would have to approve a reduction in force: teacher assistant layoffs.
“It’s a bridge we may not have to cross, but we need to have a plan in place in case we do,” said Wake Schools Chief Business Officer David Neter.
The House budget also provides for 120 fewer supplemental months of employment for assistant principals, which would slightly increase the cuts that Tata’s budget already makes to assistant principal months of employment. Earlier this month, the board approved a “demotion” for assistant principals, moving all down to 10-month contracts in order to prevent eliminating positions.
Other proposed house budget cuts would affect jobs and instruction.
The superintendent’s budget proposal already cuts one clerical position at every school in the county. The house proposal would shed another $4 million to $5 million from non-instructional support, which would likely force a reduction in custodial staff.
The house budget would also drop funding for programs for academically gifted students by $500,000, in addition to the $252,877 already sliced in Tata’s budget.
Eighteen percent of the district’s students are designated academically gifted.
“Knowing that that’s an area where we’re already grossly underfunded, let’s make sure we’re watching that,” said Board Member Debra Goldman (District 9).
As ominous as the proposed House cuts are, worse may be on the horizon.
Board member John Tedesco (District 2) suggested that, historically, North Carolina State Senate proposals cut even more than the State House. Neter concurred.
The school board must approve and present a budget to the Wake County Board of Commissioners by May 15 — well before a state budget is likely to be passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Bev Perdue.
The board will likely have to make adjustments after a state budget is agreed upon.