Wake Ed

Wake County school board to discuss lack of state budget

As Wake County’s traditional-calendar schools open today, the school board’s government relations committee will talk about how they could be impacted by the lack of a final state budget.

The committee will get an update on the state continuing budget resolution and the state budget. Without a final state budget, schools around North Carolina are opening Monday uncertain about how much state funding they’ll receive for the new school year.

This means teachers and support staff don’t know if they’ll get any state raises. Thousands of teacher assistants don’t know if they’ll have a job. School districts don’t know if they’ll be offering driver’s education.

Wake is operating on an interim budget so the district isn’t starting several new programs yet.

House and Senate leaders agreed last week to set the budget at $21.74 billion, but the details haven’t been worked out. The $21.74 billion figure is closer to the original Senate budget that would cut thousands of teacher assistants and not fund driver’s education than the House plan that would have fully fund both items.

Some school districts have put a hiring freeze on teacher assistants or warned those employees they may be laid off. Wake school officials have continued to hire teacher assistants as normal and say they’ll make any adjustments if needed.

“If we have to come up with a Plan B, we certainly will,” said Doug Thilman, Wake’s assistant superintendent for human resources, at a press briefing Friday. “We don’t have that yet because we’re confident that the folks at the legislature will recognize and see the value those TAs add to our classrooms.”

But Wake is among at least one-third of North Carolina school districts that have suspended driver’s education until they know whether the state will fund any of those classes. The suspension has left more than 3,300 Wake teenagers unable to complete the course to get their learner’s permits.

Some school board members and public-education supporters have been critical of the delay in the adoption of the state budget.

“8,500 professional educators don’t know today if they’ll have jobs on Monday because of the negligence of those people (General Assembly),” said Larry Nilles, president of Wake NCAE, at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “I’m going to say right now, the choice they have is to be the biggest job cutters in the history of the state or do what’s right by kids and parents and our public schools.”