I've heard all the speeches and read all the legislative fantasies, and I'm still not satisfied with what I've heard about the state of the schools. The stories don't match. One question I cannot get the answer to is: Is the figure used by the state legislature for school budget before or after the reversion monies? When did the reversions start? Why? Since 2008 it has been one attack after another on schools and teachers. Teachers lost the right to payroll deduction for NCAE dues (We are not a union state. North Carolina Association of Educators is a protective group to assist teachers when they needed help – against unfair practices, legal assistance and answers, group insurance, etc.) No teacher raises. Constant attacks against classrooms, cutting the teacher-student ratios, doing away with teacher assistants. But nothing beats the cuts this year. Staff development, instructional supply money, textbook money, money to repair and replace school buses, changes in all formulas related to school support hit the fans.
If it hadn't been for the Macon County Commissioners, who this year are paying approximately 20 percent of the overall school budget, our schools would not be able to function with safety, security and keeping the goal of the best education in front. Just think: Our county property taxes are being used to support schools when it is the constitutional duty of the N.C. State Legislature to provide a free, quality, appropriate education for N.C. students.
To furnish this education, the state must follow state and federal guidelines. Instead of doing this, they seem to rewrite the rules (without constitutional change) which denies all our students an appropriate education. By denying teacher tenure (which was instituted to provide teachers recourse when treated unfairly), pay for higher degrees (Which is better-a newby in the classroom or a teacher who has developed advanced classroom teaching skills through years, constant study and classroom practice?), our students are falling behind. Because there has been little regard for the profession of teaching, the learning processes and difficulties for individual students, out-of-date technology and practices due to the gradual loss of funds over many years, our state has gone from close to $9,000 per student to just over $5,000 per pupil. Almost all our local allotments have been cut. The cumulative effect from these gradual declines in expenditure and reversions of school money has reached a saturation point. The School Board is struggling to maintain daily functions with no cushion. The principals have difficulty furnishing education with few supplies, no choices about how to do the job, even to maintaining positive outcomes for all students. Teachers, at the bottom of the stack, started the year, after being hit with this throughout the last year and summer through media grinding away their safety and job security, almost with a hopeless, helpless fear. That fear has become truth as the year progresses; and, it is present in all levels.
Parents, community and business must get involved if we are to save our schools. The band has been slashed. Even athletics are being affected. As always, parents and teachers are asked to make up the difference. How, when there are no extra funds? I'm told this year 65 percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch. How many of those children are teacher's own children?
For more information, ask questions and learn how you can get involved. Start by attending the Education Forum Reality Check on Thursday, Nov. 14, at the FHS Fine Arts Center from 6 to 8:30 p.m. hosted by the League of Women Voters and MCDP. Classroom teachers, principals and the superintendent will speak and take questions. Schools need you, and you need to know what is happening before it is too late. Check with your principals and school superintendent and let us work together on turning this situation around before too many students are affected beyond hope. Volunteers are need; school supplies are needed, ideas are needed. You are needed!
What? Parent-Teacher-Community Education Forum: A Reality Check The State of our Schools. When? Thursday, Nov. 14, 6-8:30 p.m. Where? FHS Fine Arts Center. Why? To ask for your help. Be there! The most important place to be on that date and time.
Joan Maki, retired teacher — Franklin, N.C.