With Fridays announcement about Ashe County teachers losing jobs and a pretty successful Christmas in July Festival, this has been a week of paradoxes.
Most people could probably say they would have never thought they would have seen teacher jobs go away. Most of us have seen jobs with state and local government as the most stable available. We have actually already seen teacher positions disappear in places like Charlotte and Raleigh and other big cities. That was surprising enough.
Now the cuts have arrived in conservative-spending Ashe. It should be noted that the job losses dont directly result from cuts on the local level. Ashe commissioners have held county funding level for schools. Ashe County School Boards assistant superintendent for finance and budget, Phyllis Yates, sees level funding as a win. I agree. Thankfully it can be a win for schools which would have suffered more already without a conservative school board and county board that had fund balances to reach into in these the leanest of times known to most of us living.
The budget cuts in question come from state funding, the greatest contributor to school finances. In fact, school funding comprises the majority of state spending. If state coffers dry up with declining sales taxes and other funding drops in a weak economy, schools ultimately get slapped.
Local school officials have been careful about use of personnel attrition, combining jobs to avoid hiring replacements for people who retire. In the 2009-2010 school year, administrators cut stuff, according to Yates. That was seen as preferable to cutting positions then. The school board and administration is trying to hold on to successes it attributes to small class sizes.
We dont need to be misled, however, in the school boards bid to hold on to positions in the future. It is a scary time when we come to expect in the 2011-2012 budget year more than twice the cuts we have seen in the past two years.
The future clearly points to at least another $2 million in cuts, Superintendent Travis Reeves says. On average, that equates to 40 teaching positions. That doesnt bode well for any of us.
Now likely other economies will be found to avoid cutting that many positions, but Reeves and administrators are scratching their heads where to find the economies or the money. Regardless of the exact numbers, many valuable teaching positions hang in the balance..
They are valuable first in their importance to our children and the education of our children. Quite arguably small class size has helped our children receive the attention they need to achieve the successes they have. We are going to have to think creatively like we already have in projects like the linking to Wilkes Community College for advanced high school studies. Maybe there are efficiencies we can make in on-line studies. Maybe we want to draw a line in the sand and demand more state and local tax dollars from creative sources to maintain our investment in our childrens futures.
In addition to our children, we are also talking about our friends and neighbors, people we care about. They are also people we rely on who buy groceries and cars and eat in our restaurants and read this newspaper. We need to be considering the tumbling effect this will have on us all.
Lonnie Adamson is Editor/General Manager of the Jefferson Post.