Wake school board reviews budget cuts

Staff writerJanuary 18, 2011 

— RALEIGH -- Wake County school board members debated today whether to ask county and state leaders for more money in the face of a poor economy that could lead to sharp budget cuts for the state’s largest school district.

School administrators explained to the board how a proposed budget from the state Department of Public Instruction could lead to between $39 million and $71 million in state cuts. The cuts, part of an effort to close a state revenue shortfall of $3.7 billion, are likely to lead to larger class sizes, some classes no longer being offered and potentially layoffs of teachers and other employees in Wake.

At the same time, Wake is facing getting the same amount or less money this year from the county. With Wake projected to get nearly 4,000 more students, the district’s per-pupil funding would drop again.

“We’re looking at academic genocide,” said school board member Kevin Hill. “We’re looking at going back 25-30 years.”

Hill called the potential cuts “abhorrent” and will hurt a generation of students.

School board member Keith Sutton proposed trying to increase Wake’s per pupil funding, which is now at $7,886 in local, state and federal dollars. He said they can ask the county and hopefully the state to pledge to increase the amount.

Sutton pointed to a sheet from the Public School Forum of North Carolina showing that the state’s $8,743 per student ranks 42nd out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Sutton said Wake should aim to be higher on the list.

But school board member John Tedesco said he can’t support doing anything that would result in taxes going up right now.

“We’re nowhere near out of the woods as a community,” Tedesco said. “I certainly would love to have more money for our kids. But we have a community that is struggling right now.”

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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