Wake's reluctance to extensively use federal stimulus money to save existing jobs is drawing fire from the N.C. Association of Educators and Gov. Beverly Perdue.
As noted in today's article, Wake school leaders complained that the state's discretionary cuts are not really so discretionary after all, leading to larger class sizes and fewer teaching positions this fall. They also are saying they're reluctant to rely too much on stimulus money that's scheduled to go away after two years.
But NCAE and Perdue, which both backed the budget deal and argued that stimulus money could be a lifesaver for school jobs, aren't happy with Wake's response.
"Wake County is receiving over $43 million in federal stimulus dollars over two years," said NCAE lobbyist Brian Lewis. "These taxpayer funds are intended to protect the classroom from harmful cuts and to specifically save education jobs. NCAE encourages Wake County to explore every option, including the usage of Title I funds, before cutting valuable educators from our children's classrooms."
Wake school administrators say that some of the stimulus money is being used to save jobs, such as in special education.
But Wake is also using the stimulus money to hire 45 math coaches to work with teachers in Title I elementary schools and create 53 new pre-kindergarten positions to expand the program.
Chief Academic Officer Donna Hargens said they set it up so that even if the stimulus money is gone two years from now, Wake will still have gotten benefits from the math coaches and the pre-K positions.
But Wake really doesn't want to rely too much on covering current employees with stimulus dollars. Chief Business Officer David Neter said that Wake, unlike other districts, is thinking ahead about what will happen when the stimulus dollars are gone.
In a e-mail message from David Kochman, a spokesman for Gov. Perdue, he also took Wake to task over its complaints.
One, Kochman took aim at Neter for telling school board members that districts might not be off the hook from Perdue's budget order last week calling for a 5 percent funding cut. Neter had noted that Perdue's order only says that special exceptions "may be made" for things such as direct classroom instruction.
Kochman pointed out that school districts are still getting their full state funding allotments. Neter told board members that he still hasn't gotten an answer from the state Department of Public Instruction whether the future monthly allotments are affected by Perdue's order.
Kochman also pointed to the greater flexibility that the state Board of Education gave school districts to manage their budgets.
Supt. Del Burns told school board members that the flexibility given to local districts applies a lot to specific funding pots that Wake gets little or no money from. He said the "flexibility" doesn't help Wake much at all.
Third, Kochman said that flexibility will give districts "much greater ability" to use stimulus dollars to protect teacher jobs and classrooms.
Click here to read Perdue's budget order from last week.
Click here to see where Wake is making the $35.1 million in cuts.
Click here to see how Wake is spending the stimulus money.