To me, one of the most confusing concepts about this new budget is the idea of school vouchers. After research, I learned that school vouchers are basically money given to underprivileged kids that will pay for non-public school tuition. Governor McCrory allotted 10 million dollars in the new NC budget to pay for these vouchers. Each voucher is worth up to $4,200. Vouchers will be managed by the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority (SEAA) and families can apply for them starting February 2014. Only families that are below a certain combined income level are eligible to receive the vouchers. It is unconstitutional to provide state funding directly to private schools. Therefore, the funds will be sent to the parents who will then have to go to the school and endorse the document, which will allow the school access to the money. In order for a school to be eligible to have voucher students, they must run for nine months a year, require up-to-date immunization records, and administer nationally recognized and standardized achievement tests in third, sixth ninth, and eleventh grade. Legislatures that were in favor of the vouchers say that this program will save schools money because some students will switch to private education and that will cut down on expenses. Consequently, the government cut down on the public school’s per-pupil allotment by over 11 million dollars. However, further fiscal analysis showed that these vouchers will cost the state anywhere between five to 23 million dollars because some students who receive the vouchers would have paid for private schooling anyway.
I disagree with this program. North Carolina has one of the lowest teacher salaries in the country and I think our focus should be improving that instead of switching to private schools. It is great that the government is helping lower-income students to get an education, but they already can with public schools and I think our focus should be improving those, the schools where the majority of students attend. I went to public school my whole life and I don’t feel as though my peers who attended private school received a better education than me. Also, many private schools are religiously based. I think it blurs the lines of church and state to have taxpayers providing funds to schools who have religious themes. The legislature is misusing precious tax payer money in a way that is only beneficial to a small majority.
My mother is a public school teacher. She currently teaches special education at an elementary school. She spends half of her day working with Title I kids, and the other half is spend with autistic students in grades 3-5. Her caseload includes approximately 27 students and her main objectives are to help these kids improve their math and literacy skills to match their grade level. She has had this job for the past five years, four of them with the help of a teacher assistant and one without. I have experienced firsthand what this can do to a teacher. Now, my mom will be at school past dinnertime trying to finish all her paperwork. If she isn’t working at school, she is working on the stack of unfinished documents that sits permanently next to her favorite chair. I have witnessed her stress-induced breakdowns far too often for me to be able to agree with the increased cutting of teacher assistants that is happening in North Carolina.
In Governor McCrory’s proposed budget, 3,000 teacher assistant jobs will be cut and he will add 1,800 full time teacher positions. However, according to Mark Jewell, the Vice President of the North Carolina Education Association, this budget does not take into account the increasing population of North Carolina. Therefore, it actually eliminates 5,184 full time teaching positions and 3,850 assistant teaching jobs. These cuts will not only affect special education teachers, but also will affect normal classroom teachers. These cuts will increase the student to teacher ratio, which will cut down on the amount of individual instruction each student receives. The No Child Left Behind Act passed in 2002 made it so teacher assistants must have an associates degree as well as pass a standardized test. This ensured that teacher assistants were qualified and had the necessary qualifications to be in a classroom. This fact makes it even harder for me to understand why North Carolina would want to remove teacher assistants from the classroom when they are only helping students and teachers.
As a student at a major Research One university, I have chosen my blog to discuss the current status of education in North Carolina. During the recent budget appropriation session, the funds allocated for public education have been greatly debated. In addition, the salary for teachers in North Carolina ranks very low compared to the rest of the country. I will mainly concentrate on public, K-12 schools and how they are reacting to the newly imposed budget cuts. The budget cut many teacher assistant positions, did not give teachers a raise, and also is phasing out tenure opportunities as well as phasing out extra money given to teachers who earned a masters degree. Those who disagree with the budget appropriation feel as though these cuts will harm public schools and the students who benefit from them. However, supporters of these cuts feel as though these cuts are necessary to help NC move towards economic stability. Both supporters and protestors of these cuts have been speaking out to the media and promoting their side of the cause. The purpose of this blog will be to research and decipher their arguments and present each side in a way that is easy to understand. This will help inform the reader about the current state of public education and allow them to form their own opinions. As a product of the public school system, this topic interests me greatly. Furthermore, my mother is teacher within the NC public school system so I will be able to comment on how budgeting affects public schools as a student as well as how they have affected my mother as a teacher.