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UNC system faces disproportionate percentage of cuts

Public education officials in the UNC system, community colleges and K-12 schools are bracing for deep budget cuts. But exactly how deep they will be and who will bear the greater burden is still uncertain.

A proposed budget calls for a 17.4 percent cut in state funding for UNC-system schools, an 8.8 percent cut for K-12 education and a 10 percent cut for community colleges.

In the past legislators have worked with administrators to preserve the University system’s budget, so this year’s disproportional proposed cuts in the education sector are creating a stir.

“After our discussions with the House leadership, we hoped we’d be treated fairly,” said Hannah Gage, chairwoman for the UNC-system Board of Governors.

“I think everyone is disappointed that the University’s cuts are so much larger than the community colleges’ and K-12,” she said.

However, despite the comparatively lower cuts to K-12 education, its defenders are also upset about the proposed budget.

Kyle Robertson, president of the N.C. Parent Teacher Association, said her office is still reviewing the proposed cuts.

“We do have grave concerns about the impact the cuts will have on education and our children,” Robertson said in an email.

Jay Schalin, a senior writer for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a nonprofit institution dedicated to improving higher education in the state, said the variance in cuts is justified.

The public education system does not have access to alternative funding sources like the university system does, such as tuition and endowments, Schalin said.

“If you just look at who’s going to get the bigger cut, you’re probably going to look at the UNC system,” he said.

“K-12 is focused on education, whereas UNC does many other things, such as hospitals, independent centers and research,” Schalin said.

“This recession is giving the University the opportunity to do some needed restructuring without drastically hurting the system,” Schalin said. “The UNC system should look at this as an opportunity to do some very needed house cleaning.”

But Gage said officials in different education sectors need to work together to advocate for lower cuts to the entire education system’s budget.

“I would certainly not want to take from K-12 to even it out,” Gage said.

But if the proposed cuts are approved, they will severely inhibit the University’s programs.

“You don’t chop $1 billion plus and not expect to see a slide toward mediocrity,” she said.

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