Who will fund Highlands kindergarten teacher: state or county?

The North Carolina Senate is in its second week of session and has yet to take up consideration of hearing a vote on overriding Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the budget. With no vote, the state continues to operate without a budget, even though the new fiscal year began on July 1. Without a state budget, the Macon County School System is uncertain about what the future holds for teacher positions throughout the district. 

Macon County Schools is now nearly eight weeks into the school year and are playing a guessing game when it comes to budgeting. 

“We are uncertain about the number of teaching positions we will receive, but we have hired three teachers and an assistant to comply with the K-3 class size legislation,” said Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. “If we don’t receive these positions from the state, they will be funded this year out of our fund balance or from the county.” 

But since the system needs more teachers than those four positions currently “on the books” if it receives more funding, classrooms will be disrupted due to required expansion.

One of the positions that is uncertain is a Kindergarten teacher position at Highlands School. Added out of necessity to meet the needs of growing classroom sizes, without a formal budget from the state, Baldwin noted that how or even if that position will continue to be funded is a “best guess” scenario right now. 

The Kindergarten position at Highlands was added to comply with the K-3 class size requirements mandated by the state, and although it is required, funding for the position is not guaranteed. If and when a state budget is passed, if funding for the new positions is not included, the district will have to turn to either its fund balance or to county commissioners just to be able to keep the position for the remainder of the year. 

Dr. Baldwin said that in addition to uncertainty with teaching positions, all schools in the district have also had to adjust their instruction supply requests due to not knowing how much money the state will be allocating. Instructional supplies range from everything from copy paper to classroom supplies, to administrative needs. 

If a budget vote isn’t held in the Senate before October 31, it is unlikely the state will have a budget before the end of the year. North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said that there will be a 24-hour notice prior to a budget vote, and as of press time, no such notice has been given. 

By Brittney Lofthouse

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