Smaller Gifted Ed Budget Cuts Still Draw Fire From CHCCS Parents

By Elizabeth Friend Posted April 18, 2014 at 12:27 am

Parents who thought the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board had backed off plans to make budget cuts to the district’s gifted education program were disappointed Thursday night to find some cuts were still on the table.

“These target AIG program cuts will ultimately bring down our district’s ACT and SAT scores as well as university placement,” said Kim Ehrman, one of eight speakers protesting the newest proposal before the board. “Will you be here to witness the result of your academic cleansing as our district embraces mediocrity?”

The school district faces a $3.6 million dollar shortfall next year. Earlier in the budget process, the school board considered cutting half a million dollars from the gifted specialist program, which would result in the loss of seven and a half full time positions.

In response to a slew of negative feedback from parents, the board last week opted instead to ask county commissioners to cover the entire $3.6 million dollar budget gap.

However, recognizing that county leaders are unlikely to fully fund that request, the school board on Thursday considered a second list of possible budget cuts totaling $821,000. Under this revised scenario, the gifted education program could still face a $214,000 cut, resulting in the loss of three specialists.

Board member Andrew Davidson said the budget represents their best effort during tough times.

“We’re not making these cuts because we want to get rid of these programs or because we have other priorities we want to slide our money towards,” said Davidson. “We’re making them because we have to.”

Once again board members including Mike Kelley sought to focus attention on the actions of the General Assembly.

“What we’re seeing here is an assault on public education,” said Kelley. “I wasn’t necessarily wanting to say that so frankly, but that’s clearly what is happening. Our response to this has to be as a community.”

Kelley called the budget cuts “a shared sacrifice,” and he urged members of the school community to avoid infighting over scarce resources.

The board endorsed the list of proposed cuts, but said the budget negotiation process is not yet complete. The board will present its budget request to county commissioners on April 29.

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