Guilford County Schools face major budget cuts

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — The Guilford County School System is making some major cuts ahead of next school year, hoping to save money as they wait to hear more about county and state funding.

“We’re in a kind of wait and see pattern to see what the county commissioners approve in their budget, and then what ultimately is the final state budget. We have already made some decisions on some reductions that will impact the classroom,” explained GCS Chief Financial Officer Angie Henry.

The reductions include:

  • Reductions in the dollars schools receive for classroom supplies and materials, staff development and tutoring.
  • Reductions in the money schools use for tutors.
  • Eliminating mentor pay for county teachers.
  • Cutting some positions out of middle schools.
  • Increasing class size .

More cuts could be ahead, predicts Henry, as they wait to hear from the county and state about education funding.

“It’s frustrating that there’s no statutory deadline required for the state to have their budget work done. That just makes our jobs tougher. It makes people wait to hear if they’re going to have a position this year, or if it’s going to look the same as it does this year,” Henry said.

She said the burden falls on principals who are waiting to hear about staff positions, budgets and whether they can even afford to host summer school.

Henry said one of the most alarming proposed reductions is regarding teacher assistants.

“We’ve sent 1,300 to 1,300 teacher assistants explaining that we’re not sure if we’ll cut those positions or change the role to save money. We are still waiting,” Henry said.

GCS has eliminated 34 positions to save about $1.3 million.

“That doesn’t make a lot of difference if you’re talking about how we need 13 million. But you’ve got to start somewhere. Every piece makes a difference. It doesn’t sound like a lot unless you’re the school that’s losing the teacher, and then of course that could really be a meaningful cut to your school,” Henry explained.

Some good news? The school system secured $400,000 in a private donation to implement a summer ready program for rising third-graders who are struggling. Henry said the Excellence in Public Schools Act will require such a program starting next year for any third grader not reading at grade level. GCS had planned to get ahead of the curve and offer the program this summer but then had to cut it because of budget trouble. The private donation will allow the program to begin in a modified version.

“We’ve experienced several years of having to find dollars to reflect increases in cost and redirecting money to charter schools. Continuing to do that is going to mean significant reductions in our budgets in other areas,” Henry concluded.

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