When the Senate’s budget was announced this week, comparisons to the House budget were immediate. The results of those comparisons were staggering.
And WCPSS find itself in a familiar yet uncomfortable decision point.
The Senate budget reduces teaching assistants by approximately 500 in WCPSS in an effort to lower class sizes in Kindergarten through grades three.
School board member Tom Benton placed a bead of focus on the issue Tuesday night. To preserve up to 500 teaching assistant positions, WCPSS would need to redirect some local funding to cover the loss.
Protecting 500 jobs was not a part of the district’s proposed operating budget. And it wasn’t a part of the rationale in providing a very generous increase of $44.6 million in local support from the Wake County Commission.
Benton also noted that any company announcing a 500-person layoff in Wake County would be major economic news. And a 5,000-person layoff statewide? Benton noted that might be the largest private or public layoff announcement in the state’s history.
So what’s a school district to do? With whom does responsibility for funding our schools lie?
The district has long been using local support to shore up cuts in state funding. State support for numerous categories has fallen over time, and local money has been used to shore up the difference. It’s referred to as “backfill,” and it’s a familiar term to those who have been following school system budgets in Wake for the past several years.
But each time it happens, our schools are forced to protect what they have rather than expand and innovate with new programming.
The House and Senate will now name conferees to work together to iron out differences between the two budgets that have been passed. We will keep you posted on any new developments as the conference process gets underway and the advocacy course to be taken by WakeEd.