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Unfunded state mandates put more pressure on school systems - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Unfunded state mandates put more pressure on school systems

Unfunded state mandates put more pressure on school systems

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WASHINGTON, N.C. -

A good education doesn't come cheap.

And now, more than ever, state legislators are cutting funding and drafting and passing bills that require teachers to do more with less.

In fact, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction officials say this will be the fifth year in a row public schools here have experienced significant cuts.

It's a harsh reality known all too well by Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Don Phipps.

"It wasn't a gradual, slow decline that we really could prepare for," Phipps says. "It was more of a drastic, catastrophic hit that came all at one time."

Ebony Knight is a mother of four who says she's concerned with how the cuts will affect her children's quality of education.

"I feel like they shouldn't put a price on our children's education," she told 9 On Your Side.

Budget constraints have cost Beaufort County Schools about 80 positions over the past four years and forced Phipps to make tough cuts.

"We feel like if our children are sent to school, we feel like they should be taught the right way," Knight says. "And we shouldn't have to worry if something is going to get cut from their school budget."

The budget we've built is not built on fluff, on a lot of extras, and there certainly aren't any frills in it," Phipps says.

DPI officials say this upcoming school year, superintendents must meet a $376 million discretionary reduction. That's money districts get, then have to give back to the state. This year's reductions cut more than 4,000 teachers.

"It makes it difficult," Phipps says. "They're certainly having to do more with less."

Phipps says that challenge gets even harder when lawmakers require programs like district-wide online testing, CPR training or summer reading camps, yet offer no extra funding for them.

"To say that we have to do it, but then don't provide us with the means to do it, it's nearly impossible," he says.

Phipps is concerned with what more mandates without money mean for teachers and students over time.

"To have more resources and more options for students, we could be doing even better," he says.

It's an opinion parents share.

"Our children's future should not be price-tagged," Knight says. "It should be the first goal for everybody, for us to want our kids to have a bright future."

Our state already ranks 46th in the nation for teacher salaries and Gov. Pat McCrory's proposed budget eliminates more than 3,000 teacher assistants.

 

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