Morehead City, N.C.
June 21, 2019
TO THE EDITOR:
I sympathize with students who attended MaST last year or who were anticipating being able to attend this coming year. I hope you can understand this situation from the BOE’s perspective, as we are trying to make financially responsible decisions that will best serve our entire school system. Despite the sadness that the closing of MaST may have caused some, we should now have almost a quarter of a million dollars extra (previously allocated for MaST) to cover lost teaching positions across our county. Once we confirm we will be able to cover all salary adjustments (scheduled raises) and mandated state benefit increases for current school employees, funding for the “lost” teaching positions will be assured.
All other considerations aside, from a financial perspective, we would not be able to continue MaST without state funding. And unfortunately, the decision on state funding will likely not be confirmed until well after the school year starts. We could not continue to kick the can down the road. The county commissioners only agreed to fund MaST last year under the assumption of receiving Early College state funding. The state did not fund Early Colleges last year (we had to take money intended for CCC’s aquaculture program just to open MaST), and state funding is uncertain again this year. With this continued uncertainty on Early College funding, the county commissioners did not feel they could commit to continued funding of MaST.
Regardless of the status of state funding for Early College, our school system still faces reduced state and federal funding which resulted in a shortage of funded teaching positions in schools across our county. So in their meeting Monday night, the county commissioners graciously voted to allow us to keep the money originally allocated for MaST, and asked that we instead use it toward funding some of the unfunded teaching positions in our other county schools (positions which would have otherwise been lost). I support and agree with their decision.
Delaying the closing of MaST by a couple of weeks would have only delayed the inevitable, unnecessarily giving MaST supporters false hope. Delaying might have eased the blow, or perhaps continued the pain for longer. Like it or not, we opted for the “pull-off-the-Band Aid quickly approach.”
Without guarantees of both state AND local funding, MaST simply could not remain open. Support for local funding was already gone, and support at the state level has been waning (and likely would not be finalized in two months, much less two weeks).
Redistricting wouldn’t do anything to help pay for the cost of MaST. And we cannot continue a program based on hopes or promises of funding from charities, donations, fundraising, etc. These are not viable funding sources for maintaining a public school. And we also cannot charge tuition to keep the school open. Many MaST students wouldn’t be able to afford to pay tuition, and besides, then we would essentially be creating a private school. (Some people already considered MaST to be somewhat of a publicly funded private school, offering private school advantages for a select few, but paid for by Carteret County taxpayers.)
I would love if we could afford to provide a MaST experience for students across Carteret County. But unfortunately, this just isn’t possible. It is easy to look at the cases of individual students, see the benefits MaST provided these students, and desire to continue helping them.
It is much more difficult to look at the big picture and see the unintended consequences that funding MaST may have on the rest of our school system.
Weighing such items and trying to make rational and equitable decisions on them is one of the toughest tasks we face as a school board.
I’m sorry, but I hope everyone can try to understand why we made the decision we did. And I wish everyone well in their own decisions to determine what schooling options are best for their children and their family.
TRAVIS DAY, Chairman
Carteret County Board of