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News Education

State DPI warns school districts about likely shortfall.

After spending last week with representatives from school districts across the state, Macon County School's finance director Angie Cook, had disappointing numbers to report to the board of education.

Cook told the board that the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) informed local districts that by the school year's end, the state as a whole is facing a $271 million shortfall for the state's $21 billion budget.

North Carolina state economist Barry Boardman and Nathan Knuffman of the fiscal research division in the Office of State Budget and Management released a statement on the shortfall last week, citing a decrease in tax collection revenues as the cause. The state economists are predicting the gap between actual and expected tax collections to be 1.3 percent of the anticipated revenues.

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With budget cuts to education continuing year after year, Macon County School officials are exploring every cost saving avenue possible. One unique expenditure Macon County faces is funding two of the state's three K-12 schools.

To discuss the hardship faced each year in Macon County, Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin met with state representatives Sen. Jim Davis and Rep. Roger West last weekend in hopes of getting legislative support.

Based on the formula used by the state when funding teachers, Macon County spends about $1 million a year just to provide teachers for Highlands and Nantahala. That is $1 million in local funds above and beyond what the state allocates.

The state allocates one teacher per 18 students in kindergarten classrooms. With 23 kindergarten students in Highlands, the state provides funding for 1.28 teachers. For grades 1-3, the state provides one teacher for every 17 students. With 85 students in grades 1-3 in Highlands, the state funds the five teachers currently assigned to those grades.

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With an entire week of school missed last week, a snow day on Tuesday, and additional days that will inevitably be missed before the week's end if current forecasts are correct, local school districts are close to having to figure out how to make up missed instructional time.

As of Monday night's board of education meeting, if Macon County students did not miss another day all year, they would finish the school year with 1,050 instructional hours. State law requires local school districts to have 1,025 instructional hours, leaving the district with 25 hours to work with before makeup days were planned. That number was quickly decreased on Tuesday when school was cancelled in Macon County due to more than three inches of snow that fell overnight.

Macon County Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin said that even if the school district is able to make it the rest of the year and meet the state's minimum requirement of 1,025 instructional hours, there is a larger issue on hand.

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Catch the Spirit of Appalachia is providing four opportunities for a scholarship in the amount of $500 each for “Appalachian Studies,” to be presented to four deserving seniors in the Western North Carolina counties. Each scholarship is focused on a different aspect of Appalachian heritage, and established in honor of someone in our society who has made a difference.

View the available scholarships after the jump!

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