By Margaret Leak, WakeEd Summer Intern
Frustration. Disappointment. Aggravation. These were the emotions that were flying in the wake of the final state budget. Even though there were more dollars added to the budget this year for teacher salaries, it wasn’t enough in other areas, and the WCPSS school board is going to have to make cuts they don’t want to make.
The Wake County Board of Education met with their financial advisory committee last Tuesday, and they are working with a $15 million gap between what they needed and what they are going to receive. The schools will have to cut one ten-month position from 19 of the elementary schools in the county, which will increase class sizes.
The good news is, this is not meant to displace people from a job, simply to move them to a different position. Additionally, the budget does include a raise for all teachers, the supplement will remain as a percentage rather than a fixed dollar amount, and all support staff will receive a 3 percent raise which is one of the goals of the WCPSS strategic plan, Vision 2020.
“Our core business is the students, which in turn, means our priority is to our human resources,” said WCPSS Chief Finance Officer David Neter.
Other major cuts they will be making are to custodial services, heating and cooling services, and central office customer services. They are reducing custodial service from three to two days a week, setting the temperatures to one degree cooler in the winter and one degree warmer in the summer, and placing a 90-day freeze on new hires to central office following a vacancy.
Many of the members had a knee-jerk reaction to the custodial reductions, saying, “that matters for student learning.” School Board Member Kevin Hill wants the public to understand that, even though they are receiving an increase in funding this year, they still are sitting there having to “cut days that we can clean our schools.” He says it’s like we are still in the recession, “operating in a hole that we keep digging deeper and deeper.”
The state funding for school supplies has dropped over the years from $67 per student to $6 per student, which amounts to about a tenth of a textbook. Then, on the flip side, AP and IB teachers will receive bonus pay from the state for each of their students that passes the exam, another frustrating aspect of the budget since it “de-incentivizes good teachers from working with lower level classes.”
The state budget also requires WCPSS to reduce class sizes in grades K-3 starting in 2017, and the back-of-the-envelope math school system staff did showed that they would need another 15 elementary schools to accommodate the new requirements.
Moving forward, the board plans to keep human resources a priority, as it directly aligns with the Vision 2020 strategic plan. They have asked Neter and his team to look into what it would take to get all of their employees up to a minimum wage of $15 per hour, and are committed to making moves to get there in the future.
Overall, the board members’ consensus was that these cuts will hurt, since they had a very focused budget, but their staff has done a great job with what they had and the school system will continue to move along the strategic plan, just slower than originally anticipated.