Members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education expressed anger toward the Republican leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly Thursday night, before voting five-to-zero to approve a budget that cuts 22 teacher assistant positions.
“This is the first time in the 10-and-a-half years that I’ve been on the Board that there is significant job loss,” said CHCCS Board of Education Chair Jamezetta Bedford. “And also, some of our classes will not be taught.”
CHCCS Board of Education Chair Jamezetta Bedford did not hide her unhappiness regarding the budget she was about to vote for, and neither did her four voting colleagues at Thursday night’s Lincoln Center meeting.
“It’s an outrage that this is completely self-inflicted,” said Board member Mia Burroughs. “The state government reduced their amount of money they had to spend, with unnecessary tax reductions.”
Board member Mike Kelley made similar comments.
“I think the leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly are taking this state in the wrong direction,” he said, accusing those legislators of “shenanigans.”
Two school board members – James Barrett and Michelle Brownstein – were absent. So it was up to the remaining five to vote for cuts that included what Bedford called “the least evil choice” for trying to deal with a $911,000 budget shortfall.
With classes starting August 25th, the vote came just about down to the wire after the state legislature finally passed its budget a couple of weeks ago, in a drawn-out summer session that had even Republicans from the House squabbling with Republicans in the Senate.
In its $21 billion budget, the General Assembly moved $800,000 out of funding for teacher assistants, and will use that money to pay for more teachers.
For Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools, that means cutting 22 teacher assistants in grades 4 and 5 from its budget.
Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Todd LoFrese said that while the state budget would allow Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools to shift some money back into hiring TAs if so desired, the legislature slipped in some additional rules that would have resulted in eight more teacher losses than the school system could handle.
LoFrese also poked holes in what he called the “rosy” picture of long-overdue teacher raises touted by legislative leaders.
Under the General Assembly plan, teachers with less than 10 years of experience could get raises as high as 18 percent. But teachers with 30 years of experience would get raises of .03 percent.
“Some teachers may get an additional six thousand dollars next year,” said LoFrese. “Other teachers may only get an additional 150 dollars.”
To lessen the pain for teachers on the low end of that deal, the CHCCS budget includes a one-time three-percent bonus.
Four-and-a-half gifted specialist positions will be cut in the upcoming school year, and some custodial positions will be transferred to contract work.
As bad as this all seems, Bedford said she fears more for what a school budget might look like next year.
“Depending on what the General Assembly does, it could be worse next year – far worse,” she said. “Because this is an election year. This is what they do to us.”