Although school systems across the state have reportedly cut thousands of teacher assistant jobs as a result of state education budget cuts, Mount Airy City Schools opened the school year this week with no teaching or teaching assistant positions eliminated.
Superintendent Dr. Greg Little state funds amounted to around $14.86 per child for textbooks. Little noted this comes at a time when most books cost more than $60, which means the district has to be creative in seeking funding for new textbooks. He said the amount for instructional supplies works out to be around $29 per student with both amounts being almost level with last year’s amounts.
Initial allotments totals from the state for instructional supplies are down from $50,000 last year to $49,000 this year. The state initial allotment for textbooks (total) was up from $24,000 last year to $25,000 this year. State funding also included an initial allotment of $20,000 in technology monies (for the entire district) with the district rolling over $7,000 to this area from last year.
“Overall, our goal (in light of state funding) is to tread water and not go backwards,” said Little. “It’s like we are treading water while holding a cement block. There is constant pressure trying to pull you under. The cost of doing business continues to go up every year.” Little praised the support of local commissioners for making public schools in the County a priority.
He said he felt the goal of public schools wanting to provide a world class education can’t be to stay the same. Little coupled this with a growing apprehension among public school superintendents voiced by Timothy Meeghan in a July 30, 2013 Chicago-Sun Time editorial stating (Chicago) public schools “are being starved into failure in order to justify mass privatization.”
“A world class education should be asking and constantly looking for ways to improve and be innovative and move students to the next level of proficiency. Our community demands and needs for us to have world class public schools. The economic revival of Mount Airy, Surry County and North Carolina will begin with excellent public schools.”
Initial state funding for teaching assistants this year is $406,000 compared to last year’s amount of 460,000. Total state money this year is $9,750,000, down from $10,026,000 a year ago.
“Our teaching assistants play a vital role in how our students learn and our K-2 teachers ability to teach,” Little said. “Bear in mind this has occurred at a time when standards for K-2 students have been raised.”
Overall teachers are seeing raises after a number of years with no pay increases. State legislators changed the 37-step teacher’s pay raise schedule to a six-step schedule with percentage raises in years five, 10, 15, 20 with pay capped at year 25. Veteran teachers who used to get a longevity pay increase, no longer one, but get a one-time, flat $1,000 bonus.
Little’s concerns included a teacher shortage for the state. He cited 2010 figures indicating a 20 percent decrease in students entering one of the state’s 15 schools of education in the teaching profession. Little said less new teachers, veteran teachers retiring, public school student numbers rising and the attraction of other school districts outside of the state will add up in the future.
“I think we’re seeing the beginnings of a teachers shortage now,” Little said. “Veteran teachers retiring for whatever reason with the increasing numbers of students will have a real impact. I believe this is on the horizon. North Carolina needs world class public schools. We want our best and brightest fighting for the chance to be the next teachers.”
David Broyles may be reached at 336-415-4739 or on Twitter@Mt.AiryNewsDave.