Yadkin County School System has reached a cliff.
Due to a process called “discretionary cuts,” the school system is facing not only state funding cuts but also large amounts of the money that the school system must send back to the state.
“Several years ago what happened was they were cutting us at the state level, and the superintendent said if you’re going to cut us then let us decide where you’re going to cut,” said Dr. Stewart Hobbs, Yadkin County Schools superintendent.
“In 2008 they decided they were going to put discretionary cuts back in. We appreciate the flexibility if it’s a one-time deal, but when it gets to be a large amount that’s increasing, every year and 85 percent of our budget is solely on personnel, it gets to a point where the only place you can cut is the personnel.”
According to a report provided by Yadkin County Schools, mandatory reversions started at $409,345 in 2008, and those numbers more than doubled the next year. Reversions hit the $1 million mark in 2010 and the projected reversions for 2012 are $1,969,701 that must be returned to the state.
“We’re basically going to send back about 35 teaching positions that they have allotted us because we have no where else we can get $2 million,” Hobbs said.
Hobbs said that the school system is fighting to show legislatures that the cuts are having a major effect on schools and staff.
Hobbs said that if changes aren’t made the school system will be forced to send a large number of teachers home simply because they cannot pay them.
“Right now I don’t know if I can get us to the point where I don’t have to send people home,” Hobbs said. “I can send positions, but I don’t have enough people who are retiring or who are leaving for whatever reason to fill that gap, so that’s why we’re asking the legislatures to take away this discretionary cut.”
Hobbs said that the county has been able to manage the cuts for the past four years by using federal stimulus money. Between 2009 and 2011 the school had a total of $3,330,965.36 through a program called Education Stabilization. That money had to be spent by the 2010-11 school year.
During the 2011-12 school year the EduJobs program provided $1,263,933 but that money will also have to be spent by Sept. 30 of this year. All federal stimulus money will be gone after that.
“Up until this year there was a 1 percent sales tax, and legislatures chose to let that expire,” Hobbs said. “The governor has put in her budget that she’s asking legislatures to put three-quarters of a cent sales back in there and let it all go toward education.”
Hobbs said that if legislatures would pass this then the profit would make up for the discretionary cuts.
Hobbs says that textbooks have also been cut from the budget.
“That’s not the way that kids learn now,” Hobbs said. “The textbook companies haven’t even come up with textbooks that are aligned with new common core and essential standards, but they’re not giving us any money to buy them anyway.”
Hobbs said class sizes will likely increase. Elementary classes could go from approximately 19 students to 24 students in a class.
High schools will also have increased class sizes. Those schools will see a cut in the variety of classes offered as well as a cut in honors and advanced placement classes.
The school system will be looking to the community college for online classes and classes for students at the Yadkin campus.
Other cuts include shortened bus routes and four-day work weeks for teachers during the summer. The school system was also able to obtain a waiver that allowed Yadkin County to be exempt from the newly proposed 185-day school year as opposed to the 180-day school year.
Hobbs says that the school system will be doing everything it can to make the cuts without sending anyone home but that it needs the help of parents and the community in order to prevent cutting jobs.
“The thing that needs to happen is the parents and community need to encourage legislatures to reinstate that 1 percent sales tax or even the three quarters of a cent sales tax and direct it solely for education,” Hobbs said.
Hobbs said that the problems the school system are facing are large, but he is hopeful that they will be able to resolve the issue with help from the community and legislatures.
“I’ve been in education 29 years, and I understand the economy because I’m living it. But this is the worst I’ve ever seen it by far,” he said. “We’re going to continue to beg and plead with our legislatures to do something with these discretionary cuts because that’s the thing that’s killing us. I’m hopeful that we’re going to see some type of relief.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.