Teaching programs fall victim to budget cuts

When the first Republican majority at the N.C. General Assembly since 1898 convened in January, leaders said state spending would have to be cut across the board to fill a prospective budget shortfall of $3.7 billion.

Five months later, the impact of those cuts is beginning to be felt — especially in education, which comprises almost 60 percent of state expenditures.

Teaching programs have been hit particularly hard.

State funding for the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, the North Carolina Teacher Academy, the North Carolina Teacher Cadet Program and the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching was reduced or eliminated in the state budget that became law last week.

Julia Kron, director of the Teacher Academy, said legislators decided to target teachers in their education cuts.

“Anything with the word ‘teacher’ in it was attacked,” she said. “It’s like a war on teachers.”

Program directors said the loss of these programs will have far-reaching implications for the state. Jo Ann Norris, an administrator of the Teaching Fellows program, said the budget’s phase-out of the program by the 2012 fiscal year punishes students in a state experiencing demographic change.

“If the phase-out is permanent, it would be a dramatic loss for this state, which desperately needs teachers to accommodate the growing population,” she said.

But proponents of the legislators’ cost-cutting measures said defunding programs is a necessary step to restoring fiscal discipline in the state.

Bob Luebke, senior policy analyst at the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, a conservative policy organization in the state, said programs should seek outside sources of funding in tough budgetary times.

“It would be more prudent for a number of state-funded entities to go over to the private sector,” he said.

Some program directors are already reaching out to other potential sponsors.

Jim Hart, president of the Governor’s School Alumni Association, said that although all of Governor’s School’s state funding has been removed, he is planning efforts to keep its doors open by securing other sources of funding.

Charging tuition for the educational summer program — at a cost of $1,800 to $2,000 per student — would prohibit many qualified students from attending and has been ruled out, he said.

“One of the most important aspects about Governor’s School is that it is open to all gifted students,” he said. “Tuition would kill that.”

Instead, Hart is seeking donations. Gifts of $50 from each of the program’s 30,000 alumni would generate $1.5 million, enough to keep both of its campuses open for 800 students next summer, he said.

Governor’s School officials have organized two rallies on July 9 in Raleigh and Winston-Salem to begin fundraising efforts, Hart said.

Other directors are pursuing alternatives to keep their programs afloat.

Norris said she is not currently seeking private donations for Teaching Fellows and hopes to persuade legislators to restore funding in an upcoming short session in July.

Additional programs that lost all state funding include North Carolina Science Olympiad, Kids Voting North Carolina and the North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center.

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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