MOREHEAD CITY — County school officials and Marine Science and Technologies Early College High School parents are worried state funding for the school could be pulled, which could lead to the facility closing after finishing its first year.
County Schools Superintendent Mat Bottoms confirmed Thursday that he received information that the latest state House version of the 2019-20 budget does not include funding for MaST, which is a partnership between the school system and Carteret Community College. The school is located on the CCC campus.
“As we understand it as of this morning, MaST would be funded at the state level for three years under the Senate budget proposal. The House budget proposal does not provide funding for the school,” Mr. Bottoms stated in an email response to the News-Times. “I have been following this funding issue for months and we are extremely concerned that the future of MaST is in jeopardy.”
Mr. Bottoms continued that “MaST has been very successful in its first year and I believe the unique educational opportunities it provides are important to students.”
An email forwarded to the school system Thursday from the office of Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret (Jones), further confirms the most recent House version includes no funding. The email was sent to Rep. McElraft from the office of Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes (Alexander), who serves as co-chairman of the House Education K-12 and Education Appropriations Committee.
The email states MaST would be funded at $180,000 per year for three years under the Senate budget proposal. However, “The House budget proposal did not provide funding for the school.”
The House and Senate budgets are not finalized, so parents have begun contacting Rep. McElraft and Sen. Norm Sanderson, R-Pamlico (Craven, Carteret), with their concerns.
MaST parent advisory council chairman Andrea Beasley, daughter of News-Times publisher Lockwood Phillips, has two children who just completed their first year at the school.
Part of her letter to Sen. Sanderson states, “I’m writing to ask you to fund this school and allow the children to finish what they started. I don’t understand why a school would be funded just to pull the rug out from underneath it one year later. The impact to these children will be huge and your support shows them just how much they matter to their lawmakers. Each child who took the chance to step out and do something far different from their peers will be negatively impacted if you close their high school. Please consider the children who are fully invested in this school, their teachers who’ve put so much time and effort into making this program successful, and our community which will never keep pace with the rest of N.C. if we aren’t open to new ideas.”
In response to Ms. Beasley, Sen. Sanderson’s office responded that the Senate budget provides three years of funding to MaST and he would be working on this as the budget process continues.
Calls and emails to Rep. McElraft, Sen. Sanderson and Rep. Elmore were not returned by presstime. There was also no response from CCC President Dr. John Hauser.
It’s been a rocky journey for MaST, which opened with 50 freshmen in August on the CCC campus. School and college officials had planned on the General Assembly providing funding to open the school for the 2018-19 year, then found out last summer the state’s budget did not include funding to open.
County commissioners agreed to provide $186,358 for the 2018-19 year, with CCC providing an additional $125,000.
Last June, Mr. Bottoms and Dr. Hauser told commissioners they anticipated the state providing funding through a $180,000 grant for up to five years.
MaST offers pathways for students interested in a range of careers. The program allows students to gain high school and college credits simultaneously beginning their freshmen year.
The school started with 50 freshmen this year and is scheduled to have 100 freshmen and sophomores the second year, 150 freshmen through juniors the third year and 200 freshmen through seniors the fourth year.
The school system is providing core personnel, while CCC provides space and supplemental personnel.
Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.