State Budget Standstill Affects Local School Districts

Gaston County, N.C. (WJZY) -- Some local school districts are having a hard time. They don’t know if they'll be hiring teachers or firing them. The state budget is still under debate in Raleigh. That’s where Gaston County Schools get 70% of their funding and the first day of school is just weeks away.

For now, they're working to fill more than forty vacant teacher positions, before the bell rings, says spokesman Todd Hagans.

"Our principals are conducting interviews every day to fill the vacancies in the district, to make sure we have enough teachers, that our classrooms are full on the first day of school," said Hagans.

But planning is tough because the district still doesn't know how much money it will get from the state.

"We are currently operating under a temporary budget that was approved by the state, so we're moving forward as planned for the school year. However there is uncertainty when the budget for the next two years has not been approved," said Hagans.

And the uncertainty is contagious. Just ask Myra Sellors.

"I had a sister who was a teacher; she didn't really know from period to the next whether she would have a job. With a young family with children, they had a hard time setting a budget, whether or not to buy a house, whether or not to settle down," said Sellors.

But State Representative Dana Bumgardner says there's a reason lawmakers haven't completed their budget homework.

"It's hard to say if it will be done in the next week or so. I know that it will be done right. It's better to get it right than to get it quick," said Rep. Bumgardner. 

The good news is Bumgardner says the schools will get more money this year than last year. The question lawmakers are still debating is how much more.
Other schools districts are facing the same uncertainty. The largest one in our area – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools says it's basically on stand-by until the state budget is passed.

Last year more than 30% of the state budget went to fund public schools. That's second only to health and human services which was nearly 40 % of the state budget.