Thursday night the NC Senate debated budget amendments well past midnight. Now out of spite, the Republicans in Raleigh want to cut science and math education programs for low-income students in rural NC. At 3AM Thursday night, Republican Senators introduced a new budget amendment that strips education funding from Democrats’ districts all because Democrats were speaking out against the GOP budget’s misplaced priorities.
Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram’s rural district in northeastern North Carolina took the biggest hit from the amendment. It strips $316,646 from two early college high schools in Northampton and Washington counties, and it specifically bans state funding from supporting a summer science, math and technology program called Eastern North Carolina STEM.
The Northampton County program has received about $180,000 in recent years to serve 90 high school students, many of whom are African-American and from low-income families.
“I don’t know what motivated the amendment, but it will have a devastating effect on an area that is already suffering,” Smith-Ingram said Saturday, adding that the STEM summer program would shut down if the provision is in the final budget.
She said she thinks the amendment came in response to “miscommunication” between the political parties about Democrats’ amendments.
“The future of children should not be caught up in a political disagreement between members,” she said.
The amendment also changes the counties included in a program that offers stipends to teacher assistants who are working on a college degree to get their teaching licenses.
The funding level for the program didn’t change, but seven counties represented by Smith-Ingram and fellow Democratic Sen. Angela Bryant were removed. Instead, the program will only apply to several counties represented by Republican senators.
Smith-Ingram said the counties removed have the highest teacher turnover rate in the state, and helping teacher assistants become teachers would help address the problem.
Other items cut in the late-night amendment include $200,000 to bring fresh produce to food deserts, $250,000 to fund additional staff for the N.C. Museum of Art’s recently expanded art park and $550,000 for a downtown revitalization program. The only remaining funding for the downtown program is directed to Robeson County, which has a Republican senator.