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North Carolina Education: Cutting the Bottom Line is Cutting Out the Basics

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Monday, June 21, 2010   

RALEIGH, N.C. - The Tar Heel state cut $409 million last year from the education budget and eliminated the jobs of 5,000 educators. Rudy Britt is an eighth-grade math teacher in Randolph County. He says the cuts will affect his classroom.

"Instead of asking myself would the kids really enjoy some hands-on type of activity, the first question I ask myself is 'Do we have the supplies to do this with?'"

Britt is one of many teachers speaking up this month through the "Stop K-12 Funding Cuts" campaign, sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Educators. The teachers' union represents 60,000 educators throughout the state.

Teacher's aide Francine Ebron, from Pitt County, routinely digs into her own pocket for to pay for supplies, or even for food for her autistic students - pockets that are shallower these days because she was furloughed 10 days last school year.

"We take our money out of our pocket - and when our money is short, it's even harder to do - to buy equipment, to buy things that are needed in our classroom."

According to the North Carolina Association of Educators, funding for K-12 education has dropped 17 percent since 1970. The state spends 2.8 percent of its taxable resources on public education; the national average is 3.8 percent.

Those who support the cuts say they are needed to balance the budget and keep taxes in check. Ebron understands the need for cuts, but wishes lawmakers would ask for teachers' input before deciding what is put on the chopping block.

"We had some things that were purchased that they thought were helping us, but if they had asked, we could have found a better way to use the money."

According to the North Carolina Association of Educators, the state ranks 11th out of the 12 southeastern states for K-12 public education funding.

A lack of supplies is a tough pill to swallow, but one most teachers accept for now as they try to save the jobs of fellow educators. Eighth-grade teacher Britt knows if budgets stay in the red, he'll have more students in his classroom and fewer colleagues.

"We would rather tighten our belts, use as few supplies as possible, etc., if that would mean keeping another teacher on staff."

In its annual Quality Counts report, "Education Week" magazine gives North Carolina an "F" for K-12 education spending, but a "B-plus" for standards and accountability.

For more information, contact Karen Archia, North Carolina Association of Educators, 919-832-3000.




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