RALEIGH — The budget just approved by the House includes a provision that makes the State Board of Education, not local boards, responsible for setting policy on how impending school layoffs will be handled.
One of the chief House budget-writers for education issues said Thursday that the departure from the Republican ideal of local control came because lawmakers wanted to make rules on how layoffs are carried out as uniform as possible statewide.
"We just want them to put a policy out there that says the same thing," said Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, a former teacher.
The 279-page House budget also would strip the right of tenured teachers to be the first rehired after a layoff, and directs school administrators to consider "work performance" when laying off people in similar positions.
Lee County school board member Bill Tatum doesn't like the directives buried in the first budget drawn by Republicans since they took over control of the General Assembly after last November's broad election victories.
"With the leadership in Raleigh now, wanting to have a businesslike approach to state government and give additional autonomy and flexibility to local boards, buried in this legislation is (something) doing just the opposite," he said.
"The conditions in one location are different from another, particularly in a metropolitan area and a rural area," said Tatum, a retired concrete company operations director. "The board of education in Alleghany County knows best what's good for Alleghany County and the board in Charlotte-Mecklenburg understands that the needs of Charlotte-Mecklenburg are totally different."
The House budget doesn't specify how many schoolhouse jobs will be lost because of its spending cuts, leaving local districts many of the decisions of what to slice and what to keep. The budget cuts more than $360million for teacher assistants, janitors, clerical workers, assistant principals, and programs that work with at-risk and academically gifted students.
18,000 job losses seen
The N.C. Association of Educators, which represents teachers and other school employees, contends that the job losses over this summer could top 18,000. Holloway and other Republicans say that's wildly overstated, since local school boards will have budget flexibility to minimize layoffs and county governments can chip in more than they do now.
House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said Thursday that he was unfamiliar with the language on who decides school layoffs policy, but that a change was likely as the Senate works up its version of the state's two-year spending plan.
"If we think it's inconsistent with the idea of providing greater flexibility, it will come out in the Senate," he said.