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News Education School board pleads with state to invest in public education

Resolution focuses on three major components.

On Monday night, the Macon County Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution pleading with state lawmakers to reconsider cuts to public education across North Carolina. The resolution, which has since received statewide recognition for being the first of its kind to oppose the budget cuts, focused on three components of the state's budget that will have devastating cuts to public education.

The Republican-led General Assembly on Sunday published the conference report for Senate Bill 402, the two-year state, $20.6 billion appropriations bill for fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15. The school board focused on the effect North Carolina Senate Bill 402 will have on public education by virtually eliminating teacher assistants across the state, diverting money from public education to private entities through a voucher system and eliminating "tenure" status for educators.

"Eleven years ago when I first joined this board, I could go anywhere in the country and hold my head high and be proud to say I was from North Carolina because of how well we educated our children, I just cannot do that anymore and that is scary," said Board Vice-Chair Tommy Cabe in support of passing the resolution. "I do not know when we stopped wanting to educate our children."

The proposed budget plan would implement significant policy changes to education including an end to teacher tenure by the year 2018. As a Macon County educator and North Carolina Association of Educators member John deVille told board members Monday night, instead of a tenure system that ensures certain due process rights for teachers who have taught for at least four years, the budget agreement would employ teachers through contracts of up to four years based on job performance.

"Most people think tenure means ‘a job for life,’ but it does not at all," said deVille. "Teachers can be laid off when there is a reduction in force (RIF)... unfortunately, too many N.C. tenured teachers have become aware of that. Teachers can be fired for lack of professionalism, moral turpitude, or criminal behavior — the administrator need only document and counsel to work the teacher out of the system. All tenure is, is due process. To remove it is an act of repoliticization of teaching positions and the attendant tentativeness of such positions combined with low pay (48th in nation) made establishing and retaining a stable professional teaching corps about to become almost impossible."

DeVille also expressed his concern with the fact that the tenure provision was tacked onto the bill last minute and was not vetted by a House committee nor was it subject to floor debate in chamber.

The Macon County Board of Education have always been in favor of allowing educators to retain tenure status. Board Chairman Jim Breedlove and Cabe spoke in favor of tenure during their last School Board Association Conference.

According to deVille, Senate Bill 402 also redirects crucial funding away from already underfunded public schools and allows private, non-profits to use taxpayers money without being held to the same accountability standards.

"Those monies can go to sectarian institutions which brings up constitutional issues," noted deVille. "Diversion of those funds go to schools who don't have to by law, serve special needs students."

DeVille introduced the board to the mission statement of a school eligible for the state's proposed voucher program that virtually turns away children with special needs. New City Christian School's website reads, "New City Christian School is a small private school with limited resources compared to the public schools and many private schools. If your child has special needs that exceed the ability of our staff to adequately address and meet in a typical classroom setting, we encourage you to seek another school that would be better equipped to meet your child’s unique needs."

"Although these schools will be receiving public tax dollars, they do not have to educate the most expensive students and are not held to the same standards as public school," said deVille. "Vouchers were never vetted by a Senate committee ... in fact, the Senate opposed vouchers until the last minute giving rise to the speculation logrolling is at work rather than thoughtful legislating."

Lastly, is NC Bill 402's decision to cut funding for teacher assistants across the state by $120 million.

"Everyone in this room can attest to the fact that teacher assistants are vital," said deVille. "We have gone to the commissioners locally for supplemental dollars and our county commissioners and local taxpayers have been exceptionally understanding and generous and have funded the shortfall for teacher assistants. Changes to Senate 402 make that continued assistance even more difficult."

Macon County resident Tracy Amajm said without her child's teacher assistant, he would not get the attention he needs.

"Teacher assistants are a necessity in the beginning years," she said. "I have seen over crowded classrooms in our schools having children in the system and I firmly feel it has an impact on quality instruction. I have a child who has a vision disability which impacts the pace at which he learns and reads. Without a classroom assistant who helps when he struggles he would not be reading at grade level today."

This year alone Macon County was forced to consider eliminating teacher assistants in order to balance the district’s budget. County commissioners worked with school board members to ensure those positions were kept, recognizing the importance of the roles they play in the lives and education of Macon County students.

With the final state budget scheduled to be approved by the end of the week, the school board's resolution was a last minute attempt to plead with state lawmakers to reconsider their invested stake in the future of the state.


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