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Friday News Roundup: Week of July 4-8

Published:  July 8, 2011

Maine Governor LePage signs education funding reform bill into law

UNC system lines up budget cuts

Illinois veto raises questions as new school year nears

South Carolina Education Department cuts 50 jobs

Maine Governor LePage signs education funding reform bill into law
A new education bill in Maine, signed into law by Governor Paul LePage this week, overhauls the state’s school funding formula. The new formula will provide additional funding to rural school districts in the state. President of the State Senate Kevin Raye, heralding the bill’s passage in a ceremony with the governor, approximated that beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, rural Down East districts will receive an additional $1.5 million annually. The measure replaces the current state reimbursement structure, based on the labor market in the community, with a more equitable one that accounts for the population’s income as well as property values in each district. The law also increases the staffing ratio in small schools by 10 percent to allow rural districts to hire more teachers. More here…

UNC system lines up budget cuts
When North Carolina lawmakers passed the state’s fiscal year 2012 budget, they included a $414 million budget cut to University of North Carolina campuses in the steep education spending cuts. The UNC system was responsible for splitting that cut among the 16 campuses. The allocation of the cuts, revealed this week by the UNC Board of Governors, leaves the Chapel Hill flagship campus to shoulder the biggest loss – over $100 million this year, accounting for 18 percent of the campus’s total budget. Other state schools have lost funding, as well; Winston-Salem State University will lose nearly 14 percent of its budget this year, adding to a total loss of $31 million in state budget cuts over the last four years. Colleges are responding by cutting course offerings and faculty positions across the state. More here…

Illinois veto raises questions as new school year nears
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn last week vetoed $9.1 million in spending to pay the salaries for Illinois’ 44 elected regional education superintendents and their staffs, and cut an additional $2.2 million designated for the operation of those offices. He did not, however, include plans for other state education employees to take over the superintendents’ responsibilities. Regional superintendents run numerous oversight activities, including school safety inspections, employee background checks, and GED programs. School administrators are concerned with ensuring the work is completed, and have asked for clarification. The governor’s budget office has said it will examine the issue and provide more information, and Quinn has suggested the superintendents should be paid through local taxes. The dispute will not be resolved until at least October, when the legislature returns to session; in the meantime, superintendents are expected to work without pay, at least unless a lawsuit is filed. More here…

South Carolina Education Department cuts 50 jobs
South Carolina Superintendent of Education Mick Zais is leading an aggressive effort to restructure and consolidate the state’s education department. The layoffs – 50 staff members have left or been let go since May – are part of Zais’ plan to increase the efficiency of the agency, as well as a response to fiscal year 2012 budget cuts that came earlier this summer. The employees comprised almost 13 percent of agency non-transportation staff, leaving schools and parents concerned about students’ education. The state’s 456 transportation employees could also be at risk for layoffs, though; Governor Nikki Haley, along with Zais, is considering privatizing the state’s school bus system. More here…

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