Spotlighting the Cuts: Haywood County Schools
On Tuesday, February 16th the Haywood County School Board made the difficult decision to close Central Elementary School, as part of a series of cuts to close a $2.4 million budget shortfall.
Haywood County Schools are experiencing the result of repeated cuts to public education from politicians in Raleigh. In addition to closing the elementary school, the school board is planning cuts to “personnel, programs, supplies, materials, equipment, extra-curricular activities, staff development, professional dues, contracts, board support and maintenance.” Budgets have been cut to the bone and public schools are trying their hardest to stay afloat. While some might assign blame to the school board, politicians in Raleigh who have been severely negligent to the needs of our communities caused this crisis.
Among all the likely cuts, the most dramatic of course is the closure of Central Elementary. Central is by no means a failing school. Dan Kowal, a teacher in Macon County, put it best to the Smoky Mountain News:
The possibility of this school closing isn’t an accident. It is a choice. The people in Raleigh have made a choice to underfund education. If this can happen here, it can happen anywhere.
This choice was made by lawmakers when they voted time and time again for budgets that shortchanged students. Central is a perfect example of North Carolina politicians not valuing public education and siphoning off funding and enrollment from traditional public schools to unaccountable charter schools. The Haywood County Schools Associate Superintendent Bill Nolte's letter to the parents reveals just how much of their budget was lost to a charter school that doesn’t offer free and reduced lunches, or full bus service.
This year we lost $933,000 in state funds and due to charter school openings. Additionally, $508,000 of local county tax dollars were diverted to charter schools in and outside of Haywood County. - Bill Nolte, Assistant Superintendent of Haywood County Schools
The result: Haywood County just traded away a high scoring public elementary school which serves a high percentage of low-income families in exchange for a charter school which low-income and special needs families have a hard time even accessing.
Not only have the families of Haywood County been left behind, but they have been poorly represented in Raleigh by Rep. Michele Presnell. As school board member Jimmy Rogers wrote,
Over the past few years, Presnell and her GOP allies in Raleigh have pushed through legislation that expanded funding for charter schools while doing little to nothing for public schools. Their budgets have eliminated thousands of teacher and teacher assistant positions across the state, and cut funding for textbooks and other classroom supplies.
When you adjust for inflation, North Carolina’s education investment has dropped by $815 per student since the Great Recession began in 2008.
But Republicans like Pat McCrory and Michele Presnell think it’s more important to cut taxes for corporations and people at the top than to adequately and responsibly fund our public schools. If Michele Presnell won’t stand up for us in Raleigh, who will?
When the great recession hit, it was a time to make tough budget decisions for everyone. But now that the economy is improving, instead of restoring funding for public education, politicians are giving big tax breaks to millionaires and out-of-state corporations.
Until politicians in Raleigh start getting serious about investing public education again, we’ll continue to see more budget shortfalls and, unfortunately, more schools are likely to face the same fate as Central Elementary School.