Early College students, administrators concerned of funding cuts in proposed state budget

BURGAW, NC (WWAY) — School administrators and students are sending a message to state lawmakers. They’re sounding the alarm over the proposed state budget that would
take away supportive funds for Early College High Schools.

The Senate version of the budget would phase out funding for cooperative innovative high schools across the state within three years. That’s based on the beginning of the school and the approval of the budget. Some school are already feeling a pinch from pulled back funding according to staff at Pender Early College High School.

“The funding that we have in place doesn’t pay all of the textbooks, it doesn’t pay all of the fees, it doesn’t pay all of the staffing that it should pay,” said principal Kevin Taylor.

The coursework is more than heads in books. There currently are five schools that are designated cooperative innovative high schools or early college that cater to students in the Cape Fear region.

“It’s nice to be able to learn and do what you’re passionate about especially early on,” said Zechariah Hounshel who is studying computer sciences at Pender Early College.

Nearly every student will leave with a high school diploma paired with an Associate’s Degree in a career field of their choice. The school currently enrolls around 225 students.

“This program has been able to help people like me want to do better, want to excel. And to get a head start,” said Hounshel.

That head start however has come at a cost. The school has consistently increased in size and graduation rates over the years according to Taylor. However, he adds that they’ve done it all with state funding continuously decreasing. Now that funding could go away completely.

“It just tales away a great opportunity for a lot of kids to grow themselves,” said junior Dulce Lopez.

The school began in 2006 and partners with Cape Fear Community College. For the last three years its funding from the state has gone from $300,000 down to $200,000 and was recently $180,000. Taylor says if that all goes away it could mean so do the chances of the school progressing in the direction it had been.

“It does decrease the likelihood of us growing,” said Taylor.

The current proposal would phase out the funding in three years. If a early college high school was already enrolling prior to the 2020 budget, they would receive their current funding according to Pender County Schools. The next year that funding would be halved and then in year three it would be gone.

“If that gets taken away then a lot of dreams would be crushed,” Lopez said.

Lopez adds that any funding cut from the school would not make it as desired by students than the traditional scholastic pathway. She says that would be an impact not only on the school, but on the community.

“A lot more families will be impacted with having to pay for college,” Lopez said.

WWAY reached out to our local state senators. We did not hear back from Pender County Senator Bill Rabon. New Hanover County Senator Harper Peterson tells us he does not support the change to funding proposed.

Categories: Local, Pender

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