The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday May 21st

Residents Stress Minority Education Despite Cuts

The school board voted Thursday to include two amendments that would finalize the 2001-02 school budget at its meeting at Ephesus Road Elementary School.

The approval evened out fluctuations to expenditures during the school year. Superintendent Neil Pedersen said the resolution was routine.

Also at the meeting, the school board continued its ongoing budget discussions concerning the next fiscal year, which sparked comments from residents.

Pedersen said the system should expect less funding next year based on Gov. Mike Easley's recommendation of a 2 percent reduction in educational funding.

"There will probably be a reduction in our state budget of $900,000," Pedersen said. "We may need to reallocate funds if the cuts are too much."

Pedersen said budget reductions would unfortunately restrict the ability of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools to maintain the same level of service that the school system has provided in past years.

"There would have to be some reductions in funding," Pedersen said. "I would expect there would be reductions in the education services we provide.

"When we lose $1 million of state funding, it will certainly affect our efforts but won't bring them to a halt. There are many initiatives that don't require a lot of money."

Pedersen added that these cutbacks should not prevent schools from competing on the national level. Last year, East Chapel Hill High School was ranked in the top 10 nationally in achievement.

While the school systesm traditionally has been nationally credited, concerned residents reiterated that the school board should be careful not to slight minority students in budget reductions.

Jo Brown, vice president of the Chapel Hill chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, voiced her preference that the board still consider the Minority Student Achievement Plan as its No. 1 priority.

The program, designed to close the gap between the performance of minorities and non-minority students, will begin in the fall term, should it be approved. It is expected to cost the system around $900,000 a year.

"I understand perfectly how difficult it is to find funding," Brown said. "But considering the MSA, where you put your money is where you value your treasure.

"The community is monitoring the situation."

Pedersen said the school board will make every effort in order to preserve the program's goals.

"While (the program) remains our first priority, it is certainly possible (that the budget cuts) could reduce our resources," Pedersen said. "We will make every effort to make sure these reductions do not affect education."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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