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WUNC's American Graduate Project is part of a nationwide public media conversation about the dropout crisis. We'll explore the issue through news reports, call-in programs and a forum produced with UNC-TV. Also as a part of this project we've partnered with the Durham Nativity School and YO: Durham to found the WUNC Youth Radio Club. These reports are part of American Graduate-Let’s Make it Happen!- a public media initiative to address the drop out crisis, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and these generous funders: Project Funders:GlaxoSmithKlineThe Goodnight Educational FoundationJoseph M. Bryan Foundation State FarmThe Grable FoundationFarrington FoundationMore education stories from WUNC

'Until We Get A Budget, We Can't Plan.' Local Schools Wait For State Funding

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Local school officials are struggling to make budget decisions without knowing how much money they will receive from the state.

House and Senate lawmakers passed a temporary spending plan earlier this month to keep the state running until August 14.

For school officials, that's a tight deadline.

“Until we get a budget, we can't plan,” said Tommy Macon, assistant superintendent of Sampson County schools. “We can anticipate some things, but there are a lot of things that go into the equation.”

Pay for Teacher Assistants

Macon said it makes it tough to know whether they will have enough money to get textbooks, make facility upgrades or keep teacher assistants.

House and Senate leaders are divided over how much money to set aside for teacher assistants. The Senate wants to cut millions of dollars, the equivalent of about 8,500 TA positions, over the next two years. Meanwhile, the House plan would continue current funding levels for TAs.

“We’re kind of in a holding pattern with filling. We have a few teacher assistant vacancies, but we're not filling those,” explained Todd Martin, superintendent of Yadkin County schools.

Republican senators, like Jerry Tillman, argue that by cutting teacher assistants, they are able to put more money toward teachers and lower classroom sizes in the lower grades.

“The fewer kids you’ve got, the easier to manage the class, the easier to teach the class,” said Senator Tillman (R-Randolph).

Legislature Split Over Future of Driver's Education

The House wants to continue funding driver’s education, while the Senate has proposed cutting funding for the program.

Martin said his district would have to pick up the funding, but that he does not want it come from the pockets of parents.

“We might look for local funding, but we don’t necessarily want to do that either,” Martin said.

Current state law requires school districts to provide driver’s education and allows them to charge up to $65 to help cover costs. Senators propose getting rid of the requirement and mandate that community colleges offer classes instead.

Several school districts across the state are suspending their driver’s education programs until they receive a final word from the state. 

Martin said his district anticipated that the state may not provide funding, so the district set aside money to keep the program running over the summer.

Reema Khrais joined WUNC in 2013 to cover education in pre-kindergarten through high school. Previously, she won the prestigious Joan B. Kroc Fellowship. For the fellowship, she spent a year at NPR where she reported nationally, produced on Weekends on All Things Considered and edited on the digital desk. She also spent some time at New York Public Radio as an education reporter, covering the overhaul of vocational schools, the contentious closures of city schools and age-old high school rivalries.
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