NC Education budget could be slashed

RALEIGH A plan in the House of Representatives would slash $1.8 billion from schools. The cuts proposed by committee budget writers would include layoffs, furloughs and tuition increases at state universities.

Many alternatives are on the table - including increasing class sizes and cutting some teacher assistants to lower the total number of teachers needed statewide. Community college and university tuition could shoot up by as much as 8 percent.

"It would really be very sad to see that happen for children, but it would also be quite devastating for the teachers," North Carolina Association of Educators President Sheri Strickland said.

"Everybody in this state has a right to be upset," Governor Bev Perdue said. "I'm upset as a citizen and a mom and a grandma."

Perdue says the cuts are necessary to help fill the $4.5 billion gap.

"It's unprecedented," Perdue said. "The crisis we are facing as a state and a country is unprecedented."

So far, anger has been unprecedented with hundreds of protesters on the state capitol.

The North Carolina Association of Educators is waging a brisk campaign against the cuts. A headline on its website declares "We're at war!" It also released the results of its own polling that says North Carolina voters believe funding for public education should be a high priority, even in difficult economic times.

NCAE says when asked how to balance the state budget, 85 percent of survey respondents said they opposed cutting the number of teachers in public schools and raising class sizes.

Teachers say they plan to express their anger by wearing red clothing every week for what they call "War Wednesdays."

"We really do feel like we are under attack and we want to be sure that all of our members are doing everything they can back in their locals to carry that message," Strickland said.

NCAE leaders say the public would support a tax increase to preserve schools.

"In all the talk of lost revenue, elected leaders need to take notice that voters do support increased taxes in certain areas to balance the budget rather than cutting teachers, raising class sizes and diminishing every child’s right to have access to a high quality public school education," Strickland said.

The House could vote on the proposal in early June.

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