State Senator gets earful on school funding cut, construction mandate

By Barry Merrill

Tribune Publisher

Only one legislative representative was able to attend the start of Wayne County Commissioners’ planning retreat Thursday, but he got plenty of fiery questions for all of the legislators to answer.

State Senator Don Davis of Snow Hill came in for about 45 minutes of the Lane Tree Country Club meeting, and he apologized for the rest of the delegation being unable to attend. Wayne Commissioners did not hold back on loading him with concerns.

Some changes in attendance have pushed Wayne County below the minimum standards to receive “Low Wealth Funding”, a special supplementary state funding. Several counties in the state serve military families, and the state recognizes that, but last year Wayne County slipped below the criteria for the supplement. A special appropriate restored the funding, but under the criteria, Wayne would lose the money next year.

A bill to lower the minimum county attendance numbers had been suggested, but it never went before the legislature.

The other issue, again school related, was the mandated reduction in class size for grades K-3. While there is a significant issue of how the additional teachers will be funded, county commissioners are faced with having to provide new classrooms in order to meet the mandate.

Sen. Davis responded to some of the criticism of the class size reduction. “The problem is not reducing class size, the problem is not providing the necessary resources in a timely fashion.”

He said the cost to provide the additional teachers to meet the mandate is estimated to be over $300 million annually.

In some conversations with individual commissioners, Sen. Davis was surprised to hear of how many county students are still in mobile classrooms. In the open session he acknowledged, “It (additional classrooms) can’t be a part of a long-term strategy that keeps kids in trailers.”

Commissioners agreed to seek a joint resolution with the county’s school board in opposition to the imposition of the class size mandate. The two boards are to meet jointly next month in the to be opened Maxwell Center.

Sen. Davis promised to make the rest of the delegations aware of their concerns.

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