Monday, February 28, 2011

The Crisis for Watauga County Schools

Some of the starkest facts laid out for the County Commission at last weekend’s pre-budget retreat were the projected job losses for Watauga County Schools.

The county’s school system faces total projected reductions in state and federal funding – exclusive of any local cuts – of almost $4 million (which includes the loss of over $1 million in federal “stimulus” money). If local county government funding were to hold even with last year – a frail hope – then the local schools would have to fire 33 teachers, 28 teaching assistants, and 12½ administrative, clerical, and other staff positions.

That bloodbath is IF county funding were to stay at 2010-2011 levels. If not, things will be even worse.

Currently, NC Senator Dan Soucek and NC Rep. Jonathan Jordan are part of the Republican majority in the General Assembly busily chipping away at public education. Their Senate Bill 8 (lifting the cap on Charter schools) and House Bill 41 (vouchers for private schools) will be particularly pernicious. Senate Bill 8 alone will cost our public schools some $667,000 just in reimbursements from the federal government for school lunches. Those reimbursements under SB8 will have to be shared with Charter schools, even though Charter schools do not offer meals.

The message to Sen. Soucek and Rep. Jordan: Watauga County Schools are coming up on the third year of budget reductions (federal, state, and local), and we do not need to compound our problems with the hidden bombs lodged inside SB8 and HB41.

School Superintendent Marty Hemric shared the letters he had written Soucek and Jordan after the local School Board voted unanimously to oppose SB8 and HB41. The “money” quote:
“If public education continues to be reduced consistent with the past two years, Watauga County Schools stand to lose approximately 69.5 positions. We encourage you to find ways to fund public education first to avoid the projected 10% reduction in state funding plus an additional 4% discretionary reduction. We have a strong local commitment to education but the severe forecast we’re hearing from state budget projections (not to mention the financial losses if HB41 & SB8 are successful) will compromise the quality of education in Watauga County and threaten to un-employ 33 teachers, 28 teaching assistants, and 12.5 administrative/clerical positions.”

It’s demonstrably doubtful that Soucek and Jordan are listening to anyone other than their partisan masters.

Locally, without new revenue (property tax increase?), the local County Commission can only contribute more fuel to burning down the schoolhouse.


retired educator said...

The goal of these people is to destroy public education, period.
How many of the richies who bought and paid for the current legislature send their children to public schools? Keep the current legislators in office and you'll see them trying to privatize all these charter schools in a few years.

to bad said...

My, it certainly is deplorable that our previous Democrat Commission got us into this shape, isn't it? They raised the county's debt until there is not much we can do.

poll watcher said...

Well, there seem to be quite a few who think the "too expensive" Watauga schoolhouse should be burned down, and they support the Soucek and Jordan agendas.

I fear that after the era of Republican cutting and destruction of our social fabric that when Democrats come back into power they will not do a thing to restore even the worst excesses--whether destruction of unions or massive augmentation of corporate power.

evident thuths said...

There is always the voucher system, charter schools, private schools, and home schooling. All would improve education. Most would be cheaper on the taxpayer, including the parents.

Deborah Greene said...

I don't get it. The funding follows the child. If the child goes to a charter school, then the money goes to the charter school. If the child isn't at the regular public school, then they don't need the money. It would take a lot of kids going to the charter to eliminate a teacher position. And, if parents choose the charter, then there must be a problem with the regular public school. I home schooled my child. And, the State didn't pay one dime toward his education. And, rightfully so, the public school didn't get funds for the child that they didn't have. I believe that there is a bigger problem in how the money is spent. And, I am not referring to the teachers' salaries. The State pays based on the teacher's certification and years of service. The number of teachers that have positions is based on the number of students. That has been dropping off and that is not the fault of the charter school. We have an underemployment problem and high cost of living. We allow the State to fund the highest paying positions. Then the County picks up the tab for the remainder. The County also picked up the tab for $2.5 million last year that the State cut to keep teachers employed.

When Deal decided that we could wait 4 years to sell the old high school, he was speculating. And, he lost! We should have taken the $30-$32 million that we were offered. He was warned of the impending problems and speculation that he was doing with regard to building such an expensive high school, not selling the property and speculating on taxes from the Ginn property. Deal has a hard time understanding the difference of speculating with private funds and public funds. He is to blame!

Election is Over WE WON said...

If someone takes their child out of public schools, it should save the school the cost of educating that child...which the state says is appx $6900.00

Why would anyone object to saving those costs if the parent are willing to pay for educating their kids in private school......oh wait a minute. Never mind. Because then we wouldn't need as many teachers in the public schools.

Now I understand

Michael Moore said...

Ms. Greene confuses opinion with reality. She says that if a parent chooses a charter education there must be a problem with the public school. Not so; it's only that parent's opinion, not necessarily a reality (What the heck do many/most parents know about education other than having experienced it as immature youngsters), and much of that opinion involves quite a bunch of other value judgments that have nothing to do with the quality of education in Watauga's public schools.

In passing, Ms. Greene takes a shot at those "high paying" public employees. Where the hell are they in this county? When one compares public employees with private employees by their skill levels and responsibilities, the private employees nearly always are the higher paid--here and across the country. Those food workers and custodians at ASU, for instance, certainly are not high paid, by any standards.

I'm also glad to hear that she has found the culprit for most of the waste in local government spending--Jim Deal. So, now what? Sue him? What a wimp she is.

This seems to me all just partisan BS. As with the federal government after folks spent us dry on wars and drug benefits and tax reductions, you just have to deal with the crap that is left. It does no good at all to pin blame on a public servant. So, as these J.W. posts indicate, what are we to do now--raise taxes or fire people?

Apparently Ms. Greene doesn't give a poop, she has already educated her child(ren).

Camelot said...

You people really don't get it. School systems already don't have money for basic supplies and teachers are having to pay out of their pocket. Now we want to take even more money out of the budget and cripple them even more. I pay tax money to fund public schools not private schools. I don't have a problem with charter schools. They have there place. I don't think it is right if I choose to take my child and pay for their education that I get a huge tax break. You have a free public education and it is your choice not to send them there. You shouldn't be rewarded for doing it.

Anonymous said...

to (sic) bad

The problem with the county budget is not the debt. The problems have resulted from the meltdown in 2008. The Democratic commissioners have been cutting the budget for the last three years. But, of course, it comes as no surprise that the Republicans would want to blame the past commissioners for everything. All I know is that as long as the Democrats were running the county we had a pool that worked and got a new high school and no property tax increases. So I say the Republicans should buck up and quit blaming others for hard choices.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Camelot. This country has succeeded to large extent because of its public school system. I don't even have any children in school, but I proudly support public schools. It would be nice if our elected officials did too. To give up to $3500 per child to take them out of public schools is the most bone-headed thing I have ever heard, and I am a Republican.

Watauga TAXPAYER said...

Problems with math?

Cost to educate your child in public school.....$6900.00

Saving to the school if your child is sent to private school at your expense.....$6900.00

Watching liberals whine about the loss to public schools if a tax credit is given to parents who are saving the public school system $6900.00 per child...........PRICELESS!

Camelot said...

What about the children in all of this? We just say the Hell with them. We are essentially saying that our children don't deserve a decent education. You tea heads are dispicable. You talk about saving our children from debt but in return you want them to have no education. That is great we are now going to breed a generation of ignorant people.

Camelot said...

To add another thing. How is this saving the people money? I pay money in taxes for my child to go to school but now a portion of MY TAX dollars will go so that someone can send their child to a private school. If we want to get real then lets just make all the schools private and then we can cut 70% of our state budget. If you tea heads want real savings then this is the ticket. Then taxes will be low and we don't have to give tax breaks.

King Aurther said...

Camelot, it'd funny that you think throwing money at a problem fixes it. Education would be much more improved simply by getting rid of tenure so bad teachers could be fired. Hopefully, if some teachers are let go, it will be the bad ones.

Your private schools entirely is a great idea if they are subsidized by vouchers. Competition is always good.

Deborah Greene said...

I home schooled my child from kindergarten through high school. I paid taxes toward public education and I didn't mind doing so. And, there are others who don't have children in the school system that do the same. There are others that don't have children or children who have grown and moved on. It is not a matter of whether we think public education is good or bad. It has it's place. However, choice is important and public school should not try to get in the way of any form of education. They need to concentrate on their own system.

Anonymous said...

Faux Retirement

With the superintendent crying about the 69.5 positions to be lost if, I find it interesting that his struggling school system allows a former principal to retire, dip into the pension fund, and get hired back by the high school. How many double dippers does it take before someone on the school board screams, Whoa!