Comment from Chair of the Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education on Budget Cuts Aimed at Low-Performing Schools

Raleigh

In response to a General Assembly-mandated $5.1 million budget cut for the 2018-19 fiscal year, the Department of Public Instruction in June announced that it was eliminating 61 positions, including 29 positions focused on turning around our state’s lowest performing schools and districts. The Department’s district and school turnaround efforts were started in 2005 in response to Judge Manning’s findings in the Leandro case and have shown positive outcomes for improving the performance of students in these schools. On Thursday, the State Board of Education heard a presentation on the Department’s plan to create a new regional structure to support low-performing schools and districts.

Following is a statement from Brad Wilson, Chair of the Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education. The Commission was created by Governor Cooper in July 2017 to take a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to how the state should meet its constitutional obligations under the Leandro rulings.

The Commission on Access to Sound Basic Education is concerned that once again cuts to our state's public education budget are disproportionately and negatively affecting the students, schools, and districts that are likely to suffer the most from the cuts. The most recent example, announced by the Department of Public Instruction, includes the layoffs of 29 staff from the Educator Support Services Division - staff whose primary focus was to support turnaround efforts in our state’s lowest performing schools and districts.

Experts from across the political spectrum have agreed for years—with the research to back it up—that the key tenets of North Carolina’s now 20-year-old Leandro case still hold true: quality teachers, quality school leaders, and adequate resources must be available to every student in every school across the state. The recent cuts stand in the way of all of these.

It is imperative that our state’s education leadership—starting with the General Assembly, which controls state funds for public education—does everything possible as soon as possible to ensure that a workable plan is in place to compensate for the cuts and that the negative impacts of the cuts are mitigated. The Department’s new regional support plan discussed at this week’s State Board of Education meeting is a start, but we need assurances that school districts will continue to receive adequate support to turnaround their low-performing schools. Governor Cooper appointed me to chair this Commission, and he remains steadfast in his commitment to ensuring that every student in our state receives the quality education he or she deserves and is constitutionally guaranteed. I, along with my fellow commissioners, will employ our collective expertise and experience to make the Governor’s commitment a reality.

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