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Legislative Breakfast outlines UCPS’ focus

With the rapid growth and differences in the demographics that is Union County, school officials weigh in with state legislators each year in an effort to make sure Union County Public Schools’ funding needs are heard.
Two North Carolina legislators, Sen. Eddie Goodall and Rep. Pryor Gibson, participated in the fourth annual Legislative Day, held this year on Thursday, May 8, 2008, at the Professional Development Center on Brewer Drive in Monroe.
Goodall and Gibson heard first-hand about the challenges facing UCPS, the fastest growing school system in North Carolina. UCPS Superintendent Dr. Ed Davis outlined the main areas of concern, asking for support or opposition to various legislation now being discussed in Raleigh. Also in attendance were UCPS Board of Education members, UCPS assistant superintendents, Central Office staff and UCPS Legislative Liaison Jim Stegall.
“The UCPS school board is certainly involved in what happens in Raleigh because the board understands that changes can come about quickly that can impact our students,” Goodall said following the breakfast.
The first item on Thursday’s Legislative agenda asked for support of maintaining current state funding levels for the school system. This comes in light of the General Assembly commissioning a special committee to review all public school funding formulas, recommending changes where appropriate.
The Low Wealth Supplemental Funding formula, for example, currently provides UCPS with more than $3.2 million dollars. If the formula is altered, it could limit the number of counties eligible for these funds and Union County may no longer qualify for “low wealth” status.
“Between the growth, the big differences in the demographics on the eastern and western sides of our county, and all the challenges with accountability, there are a lot of unique challenges and dynamics going on in this county,” Davis said. “We have to maintain our funding level to be able to meet those challenges.”
“We’re going to have to deal with the anomaly that is Union County,” agreed Rep. Gibson.  “We’re fighting an uphill battle even if there was a gillion dollars in the budget.”
Raising teacher pay is also a top priority on the Legislative Agenda. “Recognizing that there is a statewide and national teacher shortage, it’s a constant challenge to recruit, train and retain quality teachers,” Davis said. “Having competitive salaries is very important.”
School officials are also asking for support of funding for additional school resource officers, school nurses, testing coordinators, guidance counselors, teacher assistants and school technology personnel.
Local control over the school calendar is another issue on the agenda. UCPS officials asked for continued support of school calendar bill (H0359), introduced last session, which would allow LEAs to have more control over its own calendar.
“I would like to see some flexibility returned to the school district, so that we could have some flexibility as to when the school year begins and ends,” Davis said. “It really places us in a bind aligning with calendars for community colleges and other situations.”
The UCPS Legislative Agenda also included making sure that if bill (H960) passes, the state will not force local educational agencies (LEAs) to pay the cost of $50 per day “substitute fee” for teachers taking personal leave. Currently teachers pay that fee.
Other items on the UCPS Legislative Agenda include:
•    Increasing months of employment for assistant principals.
•    Continuing to support reinstatement of sales tax reimbursement or make LEAs tax exempt. 
•    Continuing to support authorizing legislation for a statewide school construction bond.
School officials also asked Legislators to oppose any attempt to introduce collective bargaining into the public school system and to oppose any further reduction of LEA rights or authority regarding building contracts; oppose H1284 “Breach Construction Contract Accrual Date.” 

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, Publications Coordinator
Posted: May 13, 2008 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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