Wake school board discusses budget, suspensions

WAKE COUNTY The state's largest school system will be getting just under $30 million from the federal education jobs bill.

The latest federal money can only be used for school based staff. It is also supposed to be used this school year, but the school board chairman says they'll likely try to hold onto most of it, because next year looks even scarier financially.

Board Chair Ron Margiotta says they may use some of the money to hire more middle school teachers this year where they're hearing there is some overcrowding.

Otherwise, Wake County is expecting a $120 million shortfall next year when considering the loss of stimulus money and more state budget cuts.

"We better be concerned with keeping some aside for next year not that it's going to solve the problem but it'll be easier for next year's budget," Margiotta said.

The state has won $400 million in race to the top federal money, but its unclear how exactly that will help.

Also on Tuesday, the school board voted to change its long term suspension policy by no longer having a zero tolerance policy, as it tries to suspend fewer students.

Instead of suspending students for the remainder of the school year for non-violent offenses, principals can now recommend just 11 days or more.

"We're going to be first and foremost concerned about the safety of our kids but some of those situations; hundreds of them actually were much more minor offenses. A kid talked back a few times to a teacher, maybe used some vulgarity, I don't think that means a kid has to be on the street for a year. Wake County School Board Member John Tedesco said. "I think we can find some other ways to do it."

The school board hopes the move, along with other programs, will help keep hundreds of kids off the streets and in schoo, as well as improve the graduation rates.

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