Wake schools likely won't lay off teachers, assistants

Staff writerJune 17, 2011 

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Wake School Superintendent Tony Tata introduces the two student assignment plans recommended by his task force today. The details of both plans will be available on the school's website at 4 p.m.

TAKAAKI IWABU - TIWABU@NEWSOBSERVER.COM — TAKAAKI IWABU - tiwabu@newsobserver.com

— Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata said today that there are no plans to lay off any teachers or teacher assistants, but that the recently adopted state budget will cause them to fire custodians and central office personnel.

School leaders around the state have railed against the legislature’s override of Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of the $19.7 billion budget that they say will lead to the loss of 13,000 education jobs. Tata didn’t join in the criticism today but said that some additional cuts will need to be made that will lead to elimination of more non-classroom positions.

“We’re going to make it work for Wake County,” Tata said of the state budget at his weekly news conference. “We’re going to find a way to have the best instructional support for Wake County. I’m not going to get into making political statements.”

Tata had built his budget on Perdue’s call for a 5 percent cut in state K-12 education funding because of the poor economy. Tata had lobbied legislators to try to only limit the cut to 5 percent. The adopted state budget would cut K-12 funding around 6 percent.

Tata said that the new state budget will lead to additional cuts in Wake, including an additional $8 million discretionary cut.

Tata said they have a plan to absorb that $8 million reduction without cutting teachers or teacher assistants. Among the steps are:

* Eliminate school custodial positions. Some schools have custodians on staff while others contract with a company for the work.

* Eliminate more Central Service positions — employees who aren’t based at school. But even then, Tata pointed to how a recent outside audit had found Wake’s administrative staffing to be extremely lean.

Wake has already made some layoffs in anticipation of the budget cuts, including eliminating more than 200 clerical and administrative positions.

The school system is also still planning on cutting pay for teacher assistants in lieu of laying them off to deal with the state cuts.

Tata warned though that Wake has a temporary reprieve. He said they're avoiding firing teachers and teacher assistants by using a one-time infusion of $27 million in federal money. He said they'll face that "funding cliff" next year when the money is gone.

Tata also noted today that the state is cutting Wake’s transportation funding by $1 million at the same time that it’s requiring school districts to add five more days to the school year for students. He said it would cost $500,000, or $100,000 a day in transportation to hold the additional classes.

Tata said his staff is looking into whether to seek a state waiver from having to add the five additional school days.

Locally, Tata said they’ve agreed to the request from county commissioners to show how it would spend its share of local school funding by purpose and function. School officials would go to the county to let them know if any category changes by more than 15 percent. He said they need the flexibility as they shift money around to deal with “draconian state budget cuts.”

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

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