NC students, underpaid teachers are heading back to under-funded, short-staffed schools as NCGOP continues to ignore the budget

NC students, underpaid teachers are heading back to under-funded, short-staffed schools as NCGOP continues to ignore the budget

North Carolina school districts are back for the new school year and every public school will operate without a new state budget in place. The reason why? Because Republicans have been dragging their feet and failing to reach an agreement on a bill. The budget bill is now just shy of eight weeks past due.

These funds have a massive impact on what resources our schools can afford and what employees can be paid, among other things.

“We are still filling key school positions: teachers, bus drivers, other school staff. And, these delays impair our process,” Chris Heagarty, vice chair of the Wake County Board of Education, told CBS 17. “But, right now, we can’t even tell our staff and our hires what they might be making next month with any certainty.”

It’s difficult enough hiring teachers, faculty and staff when they’re paid as poorly as they are in North Carolina. Now, imagine how much more difficult it is when you can’t tell prospective employees how much you will pay them or what benefits they will receive. Would you work somewhere without knowing how much money you’ll get paid for your work?

Districts across the state are finding out the answer to that question is what you’d think – no. People don’t want to work somewhere without knowing how much they’ll be compensated. Because of this, school districts are having a hard time both hiring and retaining employees and these difficulties are not making it easier for schools to handle the employee shortages they’ve already been dealing with.

“We do not know what teachers will be paid. We do not know what bus drivers will be paid. We do not know what other important key members of our staff will be paid. And, in today’s labor market, people aren’t gonna wait around to see what they might be paid,” Heagarty added.

While starting the school year without a state budget in place is not a common problem our school districts have, a general lack of funding from the Republican-controlled legislature is, unfortunately, pretty normal.

“This General Assembly has continued now a dozen years of disinvestment in our public education system, whether it’s through vouchers, whether it’s through failing to invest in our capital needs or whether its failure to invest in our most important infrastructure in our schools, which is our people,” said Sen. Mike Woodard during a press conference earlier this month.

The problems facing our schools don’t just involve the lack of a budget. Students and teachers are going back to the classroom under new laws that target LGBTQ+ children in schools. Republicans in the legislature were able to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes of three anti-LGBTQ+ bills, which means they are now state law.

Those laws are as follows:

  • Senate Bill 49, known as the Parents Bill of Rights, requires teachers to “out” transgender children to their parents and would also ban elementary schools from having curricula, or books in the library, dealing with LGBTQ+ issues or other content addressing sexuality.
  • House Bill 574, known as the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, bans transgender girls and women from competing in women’s sports in middle school, high school and college athletics in North Carolina.
  • House Bill 808 prohibits medical professionals from providing gender-affirming medical care to any transgender patient under 18, including hormone treatments or puberty blockers as well as surgical procedures.

Republicans have also passed legislation that will divert millions of dollars away from public schools and hand that money over to unregulated private charter schools.

Republican legislators are attempting to drain funding for public schools by pouring taxpayer money into private school vouchers while simultaneously handing wealthy people and corporations more massive tax breaks,” said Cooper.

Cooper vetoed the legislation, House Bill 219, but Republicans overrode his veto. The bill expands enrollment rules for charters and allows county governments to use property tax revenue to pay for charter school buildings and other capital projects.

Rep. Julie von Haefen, a Wake County Democrat, summarized the NCGOP’s efforts by saying their “end goal is to divest in and dismantle our public education system.”

“This plan is clear: Starve public schools of what they need to succeed and then criticize them for their shortcomings,” von Haefen said. “Erode trust by stoking fear and divisions, creating rifts between parents and teachers.”

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Patrick Zarcone

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