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Educators, community make cry for help at ‘Save Our Schools’ rally Thursday

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (HERE NEWS) —

Educators and community members alike across Buncombe County gathered in downtown Asheville Thursday, June 6, to make a cry for help for public education in Buncombe County. The “Save Our Schools” rally, orchestrated by North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), began at 5 p.m. in Pack Square Park, and attendees were encouraged to wear red. The call was for the Buncombe County Commission to increase the amount of dollars allotted for BCS and ACS in the next Fiscal Year.

“The situation is just so dire that increasing our teacher pay isn’t even on the table from our school board or county commission right now,” Buncombe County Association of Educators President Shanna Peele said Thursday. “That really contributes to staff turnover and burnout. Our students desperately need more support in mental health, behavioral and lingual support,” Peele said. “Those are on the table to be cut if we don’t get more funding from the county.

POTENTIAL LOSS IN FEDERAL, COUNTY DOLLARS COULD RESULT IN CUTS FOR LOCAL SCHOOLS

The need comes from the federal government no longer providing Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds after this school year. In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government provided relief to public education districts through ESSER, but those funds are being cut across the country with the close of the 2023-2024 school year.

“For years, our schools have been defunded and deprioritized by our state General Assembly,” Peele said. “For years, we’ve had to do more and more with less and less. We’re at a critical juncture where we can’t continue to wait on a state government that’s not sending money or help any time soon.”

That led to Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools requesting more money from the county’s budget to help cover the cost. In BCS’s case, the county is providing a $3.4 million increase for next school year. BCS originally requested $13.1 million.

TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY SCHOOLS SET TO LOSE MULTIPLE POSITIONS AFTER LOSS OF COVID FUNDING

“That $3.4 million would only go as far as keeping the lights on, covering the cost of utilities and keeping most or some of our local employees,” Peele explained. “Our students need help right now. Otherwise, we might be facing up to 150 cuts to positions if [the county commission] doesn’t increase the amount of spending they’re indicating to give.”

March 2023 was the last time the NCAE held a rally at Pack Square Park, during which protestors called for more money for teachers. This time, it’s about more money for the schools themselves. “Now is the time for all of us to come together — school staff, parents and the community — to make sure our students get what they need,” Peele said.

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HERE Asheville
Author: HERE Asheville