Photo by Illustrative

CHAPEL HILL – One local teacher says your schools’ classrooms are filling up with students, but state budget cuts are reducing teacher’s assistants and still aren’t giving raises.

“You can imagine having 40 or 50 kids in a classroom and not having a teacher’s assistant, not having the personnel that we need,” Hennessee says.

Chuck Hennessee is the president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Association of Educators and a teacher at Culbreth Middle School. He says one of the immediate concerns for teachers is the combination of $120 million in cuts for teacher’s assistants and raises in maximum class size.

The proposed cuts are one of the main focuses of the next Moral Mondays protest.

Hennessee says he is also concerned by the money being put into vouchers for private and charter schools. He says that this will lead to taxpayer money going to fund all private education, like it does for charter schools.

“It’s been hidden behind ‘We’re going to give these vouchers to lower income people,’” Hennessee says. “But what eventually results from that is the lowest income people in the state end up paying the taxes to compensate and pay those vouchers for anybody.”

Hennessee also says that vouchers require people to pay for the schooling first and then get the tax break later, so many lower income people will not be able to pay the upfront costs.

Hennessee is especially critical of charter schools, which use public funds but are not regulated by the state’s department of education. He says the necessary paperwork to maintain the school is “minimal” and teachers do not need to be certified.

“Based on the new school laws, monies from the public schools’ football program, the drama program, the band program can be shared now with the schools,” Hennessee says. “Even lunch and transportation funds, when the charter schools don’t have to provide lunch or transportation.”

Included along with cuts in the state budget is an end to tenure for K-12 public school teachers, which Hennessee says means the end of teachers being able to argue their case in the face of a firing.

“Teachers don’t have tenure. We can be fired for any number of 11 different things, least among them is insubordination,” Hennessee says. “What we do have is a right to due process.”

CHCCS Schools has a fund balance to make up for the education cuts at the state level. Hennessee adds that this fund balance will only cover for this year and the school system will have a $2 million deficit next year.