Budget cuts will directly affect teachers, students

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Bells start ringing in about a week at most public schools in the Twin Counties, and a new academic year will usher in new classes, new teachers and new questions about operations in North Carolina.

The ink is barely dry on Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature on the state budget, and while we’re used to thinking about the impact of decisions made in Raleigh on schools statewide, the plan also has a big effect on local spending.

Teachers are receiving a long overdue pay raise from the state. Local school systems must match the raises for teachers who are paid out of local funding.

In addition, the N.C. General Assembly cut the state transportation budget by 1 percent. Buses still have to roll, of course. So local governments will have to figure out how to cut expenses accordingly or make up the difference with money from elsewhere.

Neither of those prospects is easy, as Edgecombe County commissioners know all too well. Edgecombe faced making giant spending cuts or passing a hefty tax increase in its own budget for 2014-15. Commissioners landed somewhere in the middle -- opting for cuts where possible and a tax rate increase about half the size of what originally was considered.

The challenges posed by the new state budget will force them to look at local plans again.

There are other questions facing educators, too. The legislature has canceled the Common Core curriculum in favor of a new learning program that hasn’t been created yet.

Teachers will continue to follow the Common Core guidelines in 2014-15, but it’s hard to say to what end. It’s tough to figure out what an eighth-grader in 2014 needs to know before making the jump to high school in 2015 when the high school courses are likely to change.

As lawmakers, the governor and county commissioners wrestle to find money, cut expenses and figure out what kids in North Carolina need to know, teachers and students will be the ones trying hardest to make the system work.

Encourage your kids to take apples to teachers this year. They’re going to need all the nutrition we can provide.