In order to deal with a House budget for schools that is $930 million less than the original budget, Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) is suggesting cutting five days from the end of the school year. Doing so would save the state about $100 million. Glazier says the last week of school is usually short on instruction anyhow. True. But the last week of school is always the last week of school – no matter when it is. You’re not really eliminating low instruction days. You, in essence, eliminate a week of school and change which week gets shortshrifted.
To meet the state’s statutory requirement for 1,000 hours of instruction, Glazier suggests making the school day longer. Understandably, teachers and students are not expected to be among Glazier’s supporters. Plus, I think you’d have a hard time convincing anyone that those longer days hours have the same instructional value as regular-length school days.
Is there another solution? House proposals include about $38 million personnel cuts. Still, hoping to keep its base happy it’s not likely that the majority party will advocate much more in the way of personnel cuts. Hence, the school schedule squeeze.
A couple of relevant facts. First, ADM enrollments have increased 15 percent since 2001. Meanwhile instructional support staff (reading specialists, guidance counselors, social workers, etc. etc.) has increased 30 percent over the same time period. Non-instructional staff has grown too much and too fast in the last few years. Cutbacks won’t be fun for anyone but we need to save where we can. If we hope to retain the integrity of the school schedule, additional staff layoffs are a better option for dealing with the current crisis.
Second, Salary and benefits account for about 90 percent of all state operating expenditures for education (See: Highlights of the NC Public School Budget, 2008). It’s impossible to make significant cuts without impacting the number of employees. If big cuts are required, layoffs are the only way to do it. Hoping to protect their base, I’m sure House leaders don’t want to take that course of action. They’d rather try and build a case – weak as it may be – for higher taxes.