Accelify Blog

School Funding Even More Dire in ’11 (NC)

May 17, 2010

School district officials may be bailing water during this budget season, but they can hear a waterfall rushing behind them.

Federal stimulus funds, which proponents say saved hundreds of jobs locally, will run out after the 2010-11 school year and, without some major intervention, school districts could be facing some gut-wrenching budget problems next year at this time.

“There is a potential for another round of massive layoffs,” said Jeff Simering of the Council of Great City Schools. “I don’t think there’s any way of getting around it. We need some additional assistance.”

The Council of Great City Schools, based in Washington, is an organization made up of urban school districts from around the nation. A new report published by the group outlines how school districts used American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money and the impact it had.

Among the 65 metropolitan school districts it surveyed, the group estimates there will be a $4 billion budget shortfall threatening 44,000 jobs during 2010-11. Guilford was one of the districts surveyed.

From the 2008-09 school year through the coming one, Guilford County Schools will have received about $68 million in federal stimulus money. School district officials say that money will save 750 positions, though the number of actual jobs that could have been lost is harder to estimate.

More than half the funding is being used to save positions such as special education teachers, custodians, maintenance workers and school office support.

As they plan for next year’s budget, district officials are trying to figure out what to do when the federal aid runs out.

Nora Carr, chief of staff with Guilford County Schools, said with a dismal 2010-11 budget outlook already threatening jobs, it’s difficult for officials to plan for what they may have to deal with come 2011-12 when the federal funding dries up. But the stimulus cliff, as many have taken to calling it, is ever-present in the minds of those responsible for building the school district’s budget.

“We’re looking for ways to squeeze every penny out of every dime,” she said in an e-mail Friday.

Exceptional children’s education is one of the areas likely to be hit hardest locally by the budget shortfalls. The district is reviewing how many EC teachers each school gets and how students are determined to receive EC services.

This year, nearly 50 vacant EC positions were eliminated.

While the debate continues, many teachers find themselves worried about their jobs yet again.

Elizabeth Foster, vice president of Guilford Association of Educators, said most teachers are so concerned about the coming budget year they haven’t had time to learn about what they might face next year.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t think people are aware at all the kind of impact this could have,” she said.

Foster is an exceptional-children’s teacher and said most of the EC teachers she’s spoken to are worried about their jobs.

“Part of me, the fiscally responsible person that I am that balances their own check book, says we can’t keep going into the hole,” she said. “But the other part of me, the teacher part, sees that if we’re going to be globally competitive we have to keep up education.”

Efforts are under way in Washington to provide some relief. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, proposed legislation that would send $23 billion to states to keep teachers in classrooms. Harkin’s office estimates public schools and colleges could lose more than 100,000 jobs next year. The Obama administration supports the proposal.

Critics argue the measure would add to the federal deficit and only stave off problems for one more year.