With two conflicting budget ideas on the table for lawmakers, leaders from Sampson County Schools are waiting to see what actions to take next.
During a recent work session, Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy and Finance Officer W. Dale McLamb presented the board of education with an update, which only included local numbers. Without a state budget, Bracy reminded the board that a preliminary budget is subject to change.
“Whatever we get from the state can affect our local dollars,” Bracy said about a budget he referenced as conservative, especially when it comes to hiring people.
The North Carolina House is proposing to spend $8.6 billion for public schools, which is more than the $8.2 billion that the Senate wants to spend. Two of the holdups with the General Assembly approving a budget is teacher assistants and driver’s education.
With teacher assistants, the House is proposing a $88 million increase in recurring funds to replace non-recurring funds in 2014-2015 through excess state lottery receipts in addition to keeping funding stable at $376.1 million for next schools year. The Senate wants to decrease that amount to $57.5 million and wants to break away from replacing $24.8 million in non-recurring from 2014-2015, in addition to eliminating $113.31 million in lottery receipts.
Bracy pointed out how the Senate’s overall plans calls for an estimated loss of more than 5,289 positions in 2015-2016 and another cut of 8,592 teacher assistants for the 2016-2017 school year.
“It’s very critical to the mission of what we do,” Bracy said about having teacher’s assistants in the classroom.
Last year, Bracy said the district received more than $2 million for teacher assistants. He hopes to receive the same amount for the upcoming academic year.
Sonya Powell , vice chairwoman, indicated how the Senate is using outdated information from the 90s when it comes to effectiveness of teachers.
“They haven’t done any recent research at all,” Powell said.
Bracy said it could be a big hit on the district, especially in lower elementary grades when it comes to learning.
“If we lose our teacher’s assistants, it’s going to be difficult to do those things at high level,” Bracy said. “It’s going to be very challenging, especially for our primary teachers.”
It will also have an effect on the busing system, since assistants help with transporting students to school.
For driver’s education, House leaders would like to provide $26.37 million for next school year, using revenues through fines from late vehicle registration. The House wants to cut funding completely and making students pay for the program. In addition, their plan directs the community education system to have a statewide, tuition-based program. Another plan from the House is to remove the mandate for driver’s education and requiring higher scores on tests, along with increasing hours behind the wheel with a experienced driver.
Last year, Sampson County Schools increased its driver’s education fee from $55 to $65.
When it comes to teacher pay increases, both the House and the Senate are agreeing to raise the base pay to $35,000. But they both disagree on other matters such as average increases, providing pay for teacher’s with master’s degrees and bonuses for those teaching career and technical education.
Bracy is hoping to receive information in the coming months to make plans for the upcoming school year. Recently, a temporary spending plan was approved to keep the state’s government operating through the summer. Lawmakers have until midnight Aug. 14 to agree on a plan.
“Hopefully, they’ll get in and wrap it up, sooner rather than later,” Bracy said.
The Sampson County Board of Commissioners approved $930 per student, which was $20 less than what the district requested for the upcoming school year. For the prior academic year, the awarded amount was $880, a total of $7.5 million.
“We certainly appreciate the generosity of the commissioners, county manager and staff for the increase,” Bracy said about the total amount of more than $8 million coming from the county.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.