Senator says teacher cuts won’t be as bad as predicted; local district doesn’t concur

Sen. Jerry Tillman, a Republican from Randolph County, told the Associated Press yesterday, Oct. 4, that layoffs in North Carolina classrooms will not be as severe as earlier predictions. But Tillman’s assessment doesn’t jibe with the reality in local school districts, according to Jan Blunt, communications director for Buncombe County Schools.

“We’re at the bottom of the barrel,” Blunt told Xpress this morning, noting that, in the most recent round of local cuts, the Buncombe district eliminated 75 support staff.

“We did not have to cut teachers or assistants at the K-3 level. We’re trying to cut elsewhere,” she said, mentioning an effort to preserve classroom teachers as much as possible. “But we’re still losing money every year from the general education fund.”

Tillman’s comments are the latest in the argument over the state budget approved in June. GOP leaders said that budget contained enough funding for local school districts to preserve teacher and teaching assistant positions.

According to the AP report, the senator made the comments Tuesday as an education oversight committee was about to meet. The panel wasn’t planning on discussing the layoffs, which were part of nearly 6,400 eliminated positions reported by local school districts that had to find another $124 million in spending cuts this school year.

Although the Republican-penned budget gives $61.7 million to local school districts to hire an additional 1,124 teachers in grades 1-3, a report in the Winston-Salem Journal quotes Brian Lewis, lobbyist for the North Carolina Association of Educators, saying that the size of third-grade classes are ballooning well above the fiscal allotment to provide one teacher for every 18 students.

“We have fewer adults teaching more children,” Lewis told the Journal.

Susan Andrew serves on the Parent Advisory Council at Haw Creek Elementary School.

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