A Critical Conversation
When I served as a principal and local superintendent, I believed that the best way to solve a problem was to gather as much information as possible and then bring all stakeholders together for an honest and productive discussion about the issue. It was important to me to hold these discussions because I knew how frustrating it could be when choices were made without input from people who would be most affected by these decisions. That is why members of the State Board of Education believe it is time to come to the table for a critical conversation about public school funding.
On April 3, superintendents from across the state will meet at the Sheraton Imperial in RTP to share with State Board members how cuts in the state budget have affected teaching and learning in their school districts. I have spoken with many superintendents who have already shared with me their challenges including larger class sizes, fewer teachers, cuts to central office, reduced course offerings, and limited or no funding for professional development, textbooks and other important resources. Now it is time to expand these conversations and use them to inform a broader dialogue about how we can best support our schools.
North Carolina has reached a turning point in public education. School leaders and teachers will be transitioning to a new curriculum, testing program and school accountability model for the 2012-13 school year. And during this defining moment, our schools also will be facing some of the most significant budget cuts in state history. After the three previous consecutive years of making painful budget cuts to education, lawmakers have included more than $400 million in specific cuts for public schools in the 2012-13 budget. In addition to these cuts, district leaders also must figure out how to return enough money to meet a discretionary reduction requirement that has skyrocketed to more than $500 million. These cuts are on top of the loss of $300 million in federal EduJobs funding that is currently supporting about 5,000 public school positions. We cannot continue to expect school and district leaders to do more with less, especially as they are adjusting to so many other significant changes.
In the coming months, lawmakers will be making funding decisions that will shape the future of our schools, our students and our state for generations to come. That is why this conversation is so important. We know these are difficult economic times and our goal is to work together with the local school leaders and lawmakers to identify the most urgent needs and find the best solutions for supporting public education and securing the best futures possible for our students and for North Carolina.