WakeEd

The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. How will the new student assignment plan balance diversity, stability, proximity and stability? How will Jim Merrill replace Tony Tata as the new superintendent of the state's largest district? How will voters react to a $810 million school construction bond referendum on Oct. 8 ballot? How will this fall's school board elections impact the future of the district?

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Wake hoping to avoid laying off teachers

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Borrowing a phrase from Dirty Harry, is the Wake County school system feeling lucky now?

As noted in today's article, school leaders aren't thrilled that they're facing $20 million in state cuts for the coming fiscal year. But they're at least relieved that, for now, they're not looking at teacher layoffs.

"The cuts are pretty severe but I'm glad that Wake County still has some flexibility," said Keith Sutton, chairman of the school board's finance committee.

Compare Wake to Charlotte-Mecklenberg, which is looking at laying off 600 teachers. Durham may cut 200 teaching positions. Johnston County is looking at cutting 113 positions.

Still, a 3 percent state cut means changing funding ratios so you'll have fewer teachers, teacher assistants and media specialists at individual schools. You can expect class sizes will go up in grades four through 12.

The other cuts aren't pretty either.

It could get really ugly if Gov. Bev Perdue proposes a 5 percent state cut in education when she presents her budget proposal next week. Wake school officials aren't expecting the General Assembly to have a smaller cut than Perdue.

Neter said a larger state cut means teacher layoffs because student enrollment growth won't offset the $34 million that would be lost under a 5 percent cut.

Under a $34 million cut, schools would see 80 percent of it, meaning a loss of $27.2 million. That's $11 million more than what be cut from schools in a 3-percent reduction.

Neter said they've already cut so much out of Central Services in recent years that schools have to bear most of the cuts now.

The exact cuts that would be made from a 5 percent state reduction haven't been developed yet.

"If it goes to 5 percent, it will be devastating," said Jennifer Lanane, president of Wake NCAE.

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The teachers should be

The teachers should be thankful that Burns is gone or he'd be looking to cut more teachers. That was his first action with the original cuts. He never even looked at cutting Central Office staff initially.

Why not leave Del's position

Why not leave Del's position vacant and pocket the >$300k to use for teachers ....

Interesting comment coming

Interesting comment coming from someone who lambasted the board for putting such a "critical" employee on administrative leave.

Teachers are "critical" ...

Teachers are "critical" ... Administration is not ... my concern is the BOE will hire someone even more expensive with the arguement (like Farr) that the the person will save their higher salary.  I do think it was stupid to take a warm body and put them on the bench when you are a man down .... salary going out and no value coming back ... that was very careless.

I thought these were interesting

In an effort to cut even more money, board members also discussed reducing the school week from five to four days and selling the naming rights to high school athletic fields.

Would the school day be

Would the school day be increased to absorb the fifth day?

That would have to be the

That would have to be the case. Instruction time cannot be reduced. However, it would save 20% on busing alone.

I used to work for a company that went to a 4 day work week. There was no loss of productivity. In some areas, gains were realized and facility costs were reduced.  

But would convenience

But would convenience demanding Wake parents just turn their anger from Wacky Wednesdays to Wacky Fridays and we would hear a list of child care complaints again.

I see, bickering is more fum

I see, bickering is more fum to you than considering potential solutions.

 

FYI: If you think Wacky Wednesdays were a good idea you are in a very small minority.

Consider me the minority

Consider me the minority then.... it was a great cost effective way to improve instruction. 

Why is it a better decision to remove a whole instructional DAY?  With parents complaining about the bell schedule and biology,  do you think that kids will be better able to focus for extra hours?  They've already focused all they can when the bell rings as it is.  We're not making widgets here, and we're not dealing with mature adult workers.  

I am in the minority

High school and middle school are indifferent (7 grades), so this leaves us with ES school (6 grades), so even of 100% of the ES parents were against Wackey Wednesdays - they would still be a minority.

Now what is insane is the latest proposal to push the Oct 1 and X-mas break workdays  to the spring. October 1 is mid quarter with alot of work to do. The x-mas workdays are wrapping up Q2 and preparing for Q3. Instead we will have 3 extra work days in the spring where the teachers would be planning for ? Oh - summer vacation.

 

Well it is a reality that

Well it is a reality that most working parents don't work four-day weeks and would have to shell out child care money for that fifth day so it may be more an issue of survival of the family budget than mere convenience. That being said, since the four days would have to be increased to make up for the fifth and since most full-time workers are paying for either before or after school care, they may be able to dispense with their current care arrangements and shift what they're paying to pay for that one day. Based on what the Y charges for SOS days and for after school care, for example, it would essentially be the same.

I'd actually prefer a 4 day schedule.

I agree with grateful that it would likely be a wash in terms of child care expense. Sign me up!

Now it is time for older

Now it is time for older latch key parents to chime in on how having kids sit home unsupervised on Friday will lead to drugs, sex and rock and roll.

Maybe middle schoolers?

I was more thinking Mrs. Goldman would never approve due to her worry about how little Susie would get to dance and little Tommy to karate if they are in school so long 4 days a week and in daycare all day on Fridays while Mom and Pop are working.

I think you can give it a

I think you can give it a rest - one person brings up the dance class thing and people are latching on to it like its the real issue. It's not. The issue is how working parents can juggle even more as the school schedule changes and how families that are already struggling in this recession will be able to pay additional child care costs if necessary. Most working parents don't have their children in dance class or whatever at 4 p.m. because they are still working and their kids are in afterschool care. Continuing to act like getting to dance class is the issue only trivializes the very real problems that working parents encounter every time the school schedule changes.

So...

I think that's probably true....  At least the sex and drugs part.

Were these ideas really

Were these ideas really mentioned? I think they are fantastic ideas to look into.  

It was among the list of

It was among the list of ideas not being considered. I'll blog about it today.

This does demonstrate that

This does demonstrate that the many of us who thought central office had become bloated were right. Last year we absorbed a $20M hit which was predominantly absorbed by central office, appears the same may happen in 2010. It makes me wonder how much more good all of that money could have done if it had been focused on classroom learning to begin with.

bigger problem

I think there's a bigger problem w/ overall Wake County employee costs that is unsustainable.  Private industry has already recognized this - we have seen this in reduction of pension benefits, reduction of health benefits in retirement.  Note the growth of 401Ks - very few companies offer pensions anymore to new employees.   If Mr. Burns can retire at 50% of his final salary (and I believe health benefits) - one might say the Wake County employee cost structure needs to be looked at.  

Very good point.  I read an

Very good point.  I read an article yesterday about the city of Los Angeles pondering bankruptcy due to unmanageable pension burdens.  This is happening in other states as well.

One thing I hope all state and local governments have learned in the last two years is that banking on an 8% return for pension funds can lead to disaster.

NC could be a leader in modernizing our state employee compensation system, adapting to market pay rates and market retirement programs -- but that needs to happen in the state legislature.

And Mr. Burns' $143K annual pension is just ridiculous.  Assuming he leads a long and healthy life, taxpayers will spend $4.3M (plus benefits) to support his retirement.

Wake employees

Teachers are state employees so you need to talk to the state about salary, pensions and health benefits reductions.

I think you make a good

I think you make a good point but the pension and health care benefits are sometimes what keeps teachers - and other state employee - in those jobs because they are supposed to make up for lower wages. So if those benefits are eliminated or scaled back, then salaries need to be re-examined so that these employees can pay for these benefits themselves. I read somewhere today about a teacher in Wake County who had been on the job for 10 years and was taking home $24,000 per year (I am guessing after taxes). If that has her at a salary in the low 30s, there's not a lot of slush for retirement, health care, etc. It takes around $27,000 a year to afford a 2-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in North Carolina and around $64,000 per year to afford a home at median value, around $153,000.

So...

Typically, public sector employees have a different compensation structure than private sector employees.  Traditionally, government workers have accepted lower salaries in exchange for great retirement benefits.

Now, especially at the Federal Level, elected officials have become especially generous by trying to make government salaries competitive with private sector salaries, but leaving in-place the generous retirement benefits.  I don't think that's happened in Wake County.

I agree that used to be the

I agree that used to be the case - but now those salaries must look pretty good for those who are unemployed.  Mr. Burns' salary didn't seem to be lowered to make up for the rich benefits.

I hope they've run the numbers on the benefits vs salary - unfortunately, it's a buyers market right now. 

How about getting rid of

How about getting rid of some of the state overhead like NCDPI Character Education Consultants ... we could go a few years without them ....

Removed by poster

Removed by poster

That's not necessarily a

That's not necessarily a fair assumption, is it?

It could be that the administration that you like to consider so evil realized that it's easier to cut office positions and spread some of that work around than it is to deal with losing teachers, TA's, and other school staff.

If they save money this year by adjusting bell schedules and not buying buses, have they proven that we didn't need more buses?  Or have they just proven that they can work to meet a budget problem?

"Evil" is your word,

"Evil" is your word, "Excessive" would be mine.

 " have they just proven that they can work to meet a budget problem?

 OK, why would they only reduce central office expense because they had a budget problem.  Why would they not, every single year, pour every available dollar into classroom expenditures?  Remember, the "old board's" budget resulted in larger class sizes and kids going to school without textbooks.  Now, we find that cuts could have been made in other places.  Why were this year's central office cuts not made last year, so that the teacher cuts and textbook shortages would not have had to happen?

Maybe Kevin Hill & Company can answer that one.

That's where things will get

That's where things will get interesting. The new grant program RACE TO THE TOP will supplement tons of money....with the caveat that the schools (for the entire state) will follow the COMMON CORE CURRICULUM....a National Curriculum. Now if I were a conspiracy theorist I would have to wonder if this is an effort by the Feds to make all states follow a National Curriculum. NC was in the top 16 runners to be one of 10 states to get this grant.

Imagine How Bad It Would Be

if no federal stimulus money were in the system...

You mean...

If the government weren't mortgaging our children's futures?  Thanks, but I'd rather take the hit now.

So kids can have a

So kids can have a substandard education and have their future cut off at the knees instead? 

Actuually You Have It Backwards

The stimulus has ALREADY paid for itself with  increased revenue from economic growth causing the final 2009 deficit to come in well below the pre-stimulus forecast and the 2010 deficit to be on a track to fall even more. The real mortgage on yor kids future woud've been the debt that piled up from the  5-10 year depression we were staring at in in January 2009.

But all that is off-topic here.  What isn't off topic is that without the stimulus WCPSS would not only have to cut to match the millions in DIRECT stimulus funds they got last year and this year, they would also have had to deal with the impact of overall state budget cuts of at least 10% more last year AND that anticipated 5% cut next week would be AT LEAST 0% instead.  I'd say a pretty coservative estimate for the WCPSS impact of no stimulus would be at least $75 million in more cuts.  And that's a low end estimate.

THat's the hit you're volunteering MY kids take now.  No thanks.

So...

Apologize for the snide comment.  I'm not going to get into the merits of the so-called stimulus, except to say that I believe it's part of the problem, not part of the solution.  I recognize that you probably disagree with that.

And I Believe It Did More To Stave off

an existential threat to the very continued existence of the United States of America than anything since at least World War II, and probably even further back.  But I recognize that you don't recognize that reality.  

 

< that last bit was not meant seriously >

 

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.
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