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Superintendents raise concerns about education funding, Common Core

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Superintendents from multiple North Carolina school districts hold a press conference on proposed funding for education in the state budget. Superintendents from multiple North Carolina school districts hold a press conference on proposed funding for education in the state budget.
CARY, N.C. -

Several North Carolina school superintendents gathered Tuesday morning in Cary to express concerns about funding for public education.

"North Carolina has failed to reinvest in its schools," said Jim Merrill, superintendent of the Wake County Public School System. "More specifically, it's failed to reinvest in the lifeblood of its schools. And that would be the teachers."

Tim Markley, superintendent of New Hanover County schools, also said education needs more funding across the board -- not just increases for teachers.

"Creating salary increases by slashing other areas of education is not a formula that leads to academic success," he said.

Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly are looking to increase teacher pay, but the governor and legislature are still working out details.

The Senate is proposing about an 11 percent increase for teachers in exchange for them relinquishing their tenure or "career status." On the other hand, the House is proposing about a 5 percent increase partially funded by increased investment in and ultimately sales from the lottery.

The Senate's proposal, however, eliminates half of the state's teaching assistant jobs, which would come at a time when superintendents say they are already frustrated watching their staffs diminish.

"We might see as many as 1,500 vacancies in a teaching force of 10,000 teachers in Wake County alone," Merrill said of overall staffing in the district. Earlier this month, WCPSS said the Senate proposal would likely require the declination of 693 teacher assistant positions out of 1,250 allotted for the current school year.

Raleigh's Millbrook Magnet Elementary currently has 27 teaching assistants, and it's principal says the loss of a good portion of them would be devastating to educational needs of students.

"Gone are the days of [TA's] stuffing folders and working on end-of-the-year things," explained Principal Paula Trantham. "They're in the classroom every day working with curriculum.

"I don't know how we'd meet the needs of all of the kids. Teachers are already stretched thin and class sizes are continuing to get larger."

Lawmakers would also like the state pull out of the national Common Core curriculum, which is designed to create a common base for learning across the United States. The move would remove Common Core from North Carolina statutes and allow the State Board of Education to replace it in the state.

While the superintendents recognized that the system is not yet perfect, they are asking lawmakers to keep the standards in place.

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Steve Sbraccia

Steve is an award-winning reporter for WNCN and former assistant professor. A seasoned professional, Steve is proud to call the Triangle home since 2005 after over two decades in Boston, Mass.  More>>

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