Lawsuit raised as possible school funding response
Budget issues continue to plague Durham Public Schools, and at its quarterly meeting with the County Commissioners, the question of why educational organizations have not sought legal remedies arose.
County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow asked board members whether the North Carolina State School Boards Association had considered litigation over the way lottery funds have been diverted from education.
DPS board member Minnie Forte-Brown serves on the board of directors for the N.C. School Board Association and said that the organization is not sitting idle.
She said she couldn’t go into specifics of the association’s discussions. She did, however, add that “whenever you talk about litigation, it is costly.”
DPS Board Chair Heidi Carter said some people opposed the “education lottery,” authorized by the state legislature in 2005, because they feared all the funds would not continue to flow to schools.
The original legislation called for 50 percent of the lottery’s profits to go to classrooms, 40 percent to school construction and 10 percent to scholarships. Critics say that model has rarely been adhered to, and legislative changes have since designated the proceeds for education-related purposes.
Carter told the joint meeting since 2008 DPS has been a decrease in state funds of between $13 million and $16 million. That “is about 260 teachers at $50,000 per teacher, just to put that in perspective,” Carter said.
In the current year’s budget, state cuts totaled about $12.5 million – about $4.5 million more than the district anticipated before the legislature’s final plan, DPS Chief Financial Officer Aaron Beaulieu said.
Beaulieu explained that DPS anticipated $8.3 million in cuts but “when the state budget was approved it was almost $4.5 million more than what we had been told to prepare for” at $12.5 million in cuts.
Beaulieu said budget cuts will be reflected in larger classes and teachers being asked to do more with less.
“I think about Durham Public Schools and the teachers having to deal with the number of students that are going to be in their classes,” Commissioner Brenda Howerton said, “and it’s just saddening.”