To the Editor,
Reports that the 2011-12 school year’s budget for the Public Schools of Robeson County was slashed by Republicans in the General Assembly are not true. With the state facing a $2.8 billion deficit, all departments had to take a cut. Although state funding for public schools across North Carolina was cut approximately 5 percent, the Public Schools of Robeson County was allocated more money, not less, by the General Assembly.
State funds are not the only source of money for public schools. Robeson County receives local and federal funds in addition to state money to support education. Cuts in federal and local funding have made it easy for critics of the General Assembly to blame state legislators for less money for education this year.
I believe that it is my duty as an elected official to make decisions based upon facts. Therefore, I have spent many hours researching and meeting with experts in the field of school finance, trying to find the truth about the funding for the Public Schools of Robeson County. These sources include the following: the Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh, Fiscal Research (an agency working for the General Assembly), and several public school finance officers (past and present) around the state. These sources agree that this school year the General Assembly allocated more money to the Public Schools of Robeson County, not less. In the final analysis, Robeson County received $7 million more state funding this school year than last year.
Some educators in Robeson County lost their jobs. However, decisions on how to use some of the state funds were made at the local level. In addition, the Public Schools of Robeson County received enough state money to hire 20 additional teachers this school year.
When the public reads and hears the same information repeatedly, they assume they are being told the truth, especially if that information is being reported by those in leadership positions. Too few leaders make the effort to research important topics before they make decisions or issue public statements.
My hope is that we can work together to pull through these difficult times in our county, our state and in our nation. Let’s begin to deal in facts, put aside political agendas, and do what is right. Our children deserve that.
Rep. G.L. Pridgen
N.C. House of Representatives