UNION COUNTY, N.C. -- Nearly 1,000 Union County neighbors fought for their schools Thursday night, saying there's no room left to cut without hurting performance.
Those neighbors also demanded help and answers from state lawmakers responsible for large amounts of the school district's budget.
"We find ourselves in a proverbial rock and a hard place,” said parent Bruce Frizen.
It's not a comfortable spot to be in.
Union County parents, students, teachers and administrators are facing a $10 million budget shortfall next year. Educators said cuts could potentially eliminate more than 170 teachers and lead to larger class sizes.
That is something parent Danis Simmons doesn't want his kids to experience.
"I think it impacts all the kids if the class size gets bigger. The advantage of having a teacher that can spend time with your kid individually is very important to all of our children,” Simmons said.
Thursday, one big question was "Where to cut?"
Parents and educators used Marvin Ridge High School as an example. The school ranks in the top five in the state in graduation rate but almost at the bottom for pupil spending.
Plus, teachers said they haven't gotten a raise in four years.
"We are losing some of our brightest and best teachers--the ones that are here and the ones that have not yet come,” Frizen said.
Add it up and parents say local schools are at the tipping point where more cuts will hurt performance.
"It's a very motivated district so I think things will happen,” said parent Jacquie McCann.
Local lawmakers showed enough numbers Thursday night to make your head spin, explaining budgets and spending. Their bottom line is: The better the economy does, the more money there will be.
"You have to be part of the solution. We desperately need your advice," said Representative D. Craig Horn, who represents Union County.
Parents and teachers are also hoping the county finds a way to come up with more money as well. School district budgets are always a work in progress until they're finalized in the summer.
Lawmakers said there could be more money to spend on schools next year but they won't know until this summer, when tax revenues are in and budgets are figured out.