GREENSBORO — Guilford school leaders want to have money to provide driver education, as state law requires.
They want to avoid increasing class sizes again. They want to provide resources students and teachers need, such as textbooks.
So once again, they’re asking for more money.
Superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green on Tuesday released his fiscal 2016 budget recommendation.
He’s asking the county for an additional $26 million in funding. Green’s overall recommended budget recommendation, with the increased local funding, is $692.9 million.
The increase would include about $14.5 million to restore cuts to schools.
The budget process is just beginning. The final funding levels would not be available until the General Assembly passes a state budget.
Meanwhile, school leaders said they’re persistently seeing increased needs and mandates but dwindling funds.
“We’re just not doing what we know is educationally sound for children,” Green said Tuesday.
It’s no longer unusual to see some core subject area have classes with more than 30 students.
Guilford enrollment has increased by more than 1,200 students since 2008-09 but there are 185 fewer full-time teacher positions, district figures show.
Enrollment in Guilford County charter schools has climbed to 4,449 students this year from 1,540 in 2008-09, according to system figures. The share of local funding going to those schools also climbed from about $3 million in 2004-05 to almost $11 million.
But the amount of local funds allocated per student has steadily dropped over seven years from $2,416 to $2,340.
The fiscal 2015 budget included almost $18 million in reductions and included a dip into the school system’s fund balance.
Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget would result in a loss of about $4.4 million for Guilford County Schools. That would include almost $1.2 million less for teacher assistants, $1.3 million less for driver education and $939,160 less for transportation, among other things.
McCrory’s proposed budget would include $1.6 million more for textbooks.
“Certainly those are resources we could use,” said Angie Henry, Guilford’s chief financial officer. But she said it costs between $5.5 million and $6 million to adopt new textbooks for any one subject area.
Even if that amount was added to the $1 million that the school system got this year in state funding for textbooks, Henry said it wouldn’t be enough to buy all the textbooks needed in any one subject.
Green’s budget request also will include funding for Mission Possible, a district incentive program to recruit high-quality teachers to high-needs schools.
Stephanie Hendrix, a fifth-grade teacher at Allen Jay Elementary School, pointed to that program as one reason for academic gains at the school.
“We have been recognized yearly for exceeding expected growth,” Hendrix said. “Our staff works hard, showing up early and staying late to ensure that we are giving the best. We spend our own money on supplies because the majority of our students can’t afford them.”
But teachers have their own financial struggles, she said.
North Carolina’s average teacher salary in fiscal 2014 was $48,384, enough to rank No. 11 of 12 states in the Southeast, according to the National Education Association.
And North Carolina still has one of the nation’s lowest average teacher salaries.
The school system has seen improvements such as higher graduation rates and more students taking college level classes, despite continued struggles with funding.
“When you look at what we’re doing with our public schools against all these downward and crosswind pressures, the case makes itself that this is what we ought to be funding,” said Winston McGregor, executive director of the Guilford Education Alliance.
School and county leaders need to work together to find a funding solution, she said, instead of saying again things like “we’re all doing more with less.”
“It’s just a tired old argument,” McGregor said.