Help public schools bridge the gap between needs, funding

Aug 15, 2013

Education funding in the most recent state budget has been a state — and even national — topic. Those who voted for the budget say the state is providing more funding this year than last for education, a point disputed by their counterparts.

While the issue will likely be spun extensively prior to the next election, what is known in this community is that Haywood County Public Schools will be receiving about $790,000 less in state funding than they did last year.

The budget includes no funding for teaching assistants in the second and third grade, though school boards can still employ assistants if they have other funds.  Two other significant areas for cutbacks included special education and funding for materials and supplies.

While less than $1 million in budget that includes $38 million of state funds may not seem like a large percentage, the cumulative effect of belt-tightening since 2008 needs to be considered.

Since the recession hit Haywood and the rest of the nation, public education in Haywood has absorbed a $5 million loss in funding and had to reduce staffing by more than 120 positions. This is all during a time of increased enrollment and escalating costs.

North Carolina is ranked 48th in spending for teacher salaries and in per-pupil spending, according to the latest data from the National Education Association.

Still, the state is 7th in excellence according to the 2013 Report Card on American Education, presented by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Luckily the state’s public education excellence doesn’t match the near rock-bottom funding allotted to it, but it’s logical that quality will slip as class sizes grow, the emphasis on early childhood education lessens and schools don’t have funding to keep up with technological and other supply needs.

It’s obvious that times are changing in many ways, not just education. Just as we have adapted to other challenges, for now we need to do the same in education. Here is how we all can help.

First off, we need to do all we can to support teachers and those in the education system who will likely be faced with supply shortages, a higher number of students in their class and less help. Those who can’t personally volunteer to help out in the schools can pitch in by asking their child’s teacher or a teacher they know what supplies they need to better do their jobs and then help provide them.

Teachers, like many others, haven’t received a pay raise in five years. The ability to teach is a gift and those in the profession need to know they are valued. Since that recognition hasn’t come forth monetarily, we need to take other actions showing appreciation to teachers so they know they are making a difference in their work.

Many organizations and churches in the community are already pitching in to help with supplies, clothing and other needs in the classroom. Those who have no direct connection to a school or teacher can help out through them.

Secondly, the Haywood County Schools Foundation is a nonprofit group that works tirelessly throughout the year to provide scholarships for the college-bound, helps ensure needy students have the clothing or supplies they need to succeed in the classroom and supports schools in numerous ways.

Contributing to these groups is a way Haywood County residents can help bridge the gap between public education needs and its funding.

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