From the Ground Up: Budget woes, Halifax forum, Revamped Web resource for parents

April 8, 2009

Greetings, parents and local education partners. Senate leaders plan to cope with a potential $3 billion shortfall in next year's budget, in part, by adding two more students to the average public school classroom and slashing funding for the state's early childhood education programs. Keep reading for more information about the proposed Senate budget, Halifax County schools, the juvenile justice system, and the NCCARE Web site.

Senate saves by cutting pre-k program and adding kids to classes.
The outlook for the state's More at Four program is grim in the proposed Senate budget that would cut funding by $40 million and reduce the amount paid per student. Early childhood education advocates fear that any cuts will compromise the program which is ranked among the best in the nation. Earlier today the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its annual survey of state-funded preschool programs and for the fourth year, More at Four was one of only two programs in the nation to meet all 10 of the survey's benchmarks on early learning standards, teacher degrees, teacher specialized training, assistant teacher degrees, continuing professional development requirements, maximum class size, staff-child ratios, screening, referral and support services, meals and monitoring procedures.

Other changes in the Senate budget include:
Adding two more students to the average public school classroom.

  • Drastically reducing funding for pre-kindergarten programs.
  • Downsizing the Dropout Prevention Grant program to $1 million per year in 09-10 and 10-11.
  • Increasing pressure on counties with multiple school districts to merge them by funding one school district per county for six allotments in 2010-11.
  • Increasing pressure for counties to merge multiple school districts by changing the destination of funds to a per county basis, rather than a per school district basis and then re-distributing that money between the multiple districts based on the number of students enrolled in the schools. This would mean that in a county with two districts, state funding per students would be equalized between districts, even if their student composition was different. Some systems are exempt from this proposal including Nash-Rocky Mount and Edgecombe, Cleveland, and Gaston counties.

Halifax community responds to judge's order
Last month, Superior Court judge Howard Manning wrote a letter to the Halifax County school system ordering a hearing for next month to determine whether the local district should lose control of its schools because of its "apparent failure" to provide students with "equal opportunity to obtain a sound basic education." Seventy-one percent of elementary school students in Halifax cannot read at grade level, and 74.3 percent of middle-school students are not proficient. On April 23, a coalition that includes Families Supporting Families of Halifax County, Strong Connections, state Reps. Angela Bryant and Lucy Allen, state Senator Ed Jones and the Justice Center's Education and Law Project will host a community forum to discuss about how parents, advocates, educators, and state leaders can work together to improve student outcomes in the community. For more information about the forum contact Rochelle Williams at rochelle@ncjustice.org or 919.861.0602.

Casey executive argues for changes to juvenile justice laws
Studies show that teenagers handled in a juvenile justice system that focuses are rehabilitation are less likely to commit more crimes that young people sent into adults system. Despite the research, North Carolina remains one of three state that treat youth as young as 16 as adults for any crime they commit. Recently, Action for Children North Carolina invited Bart Lubow, an juvenile justice expert with the Anne E. Casey foundation, to North Carolina to speak about why the state should change the age that it starts treating offenders as adults. Read a copy of Lubow's speech here. Listen to Lubow being interviewed by NC Policy Watch here.

NCCARE revamps online resource for parents
NC Community Advocates for Revitalizing Education, the grassroots coalition of parents and education advocates continues to improve its Web site to include more of the information that parents and communities need to advocate for their children. Please visit the site at nccare.org.

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