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Over 150 NC schools will lose Wi-Fi without a new budget, state superintendent says

Catherine Truitt said the Department of Public Instruction needs another $4.6 million to continue funding wireless internet for more than 150 schools statewide.

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina education leaders say the state would be unable to fund multiple key programs, including wireless internet, for some schools without a new state budget. 

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt wrote a letter Monday to Gov. Roy Cooper, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore saying the Department of Public Instruction needs another $4.6 million to continue funding Wi-Fi for more than 150 schools that educate more than 14,000 students. Truitt said many of those schools are charter schools and schools that focus on serving students with special needs. 

Other programs that could be impacted include the Student Information System, teacher licensing and the Teach NC initiative, which enrolled hundreds of future teachers in prep programs in the 2019-20 school year. 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education chair Elyse Dashew told WCNC Charlotte this is a critical program that helps get good teachers. 

Truitt said she understands that compromises and negotiations are required to pass a budget and that she recognized schools "will not get everything we have asked for" but was appreciative of the bipartisan effort in the General Assembly.

"The bi-partisan proposals by the General Assembly show the good faith effort underway to create a budget that addresses the needs of all of our citizens," Truitt, who is a Republican, said.

Truitt is also hopeful teachers will be given a raise after dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and associated challenges for over a year. 

"A 3%, 5% or 10% raise for teachers is undoubtedly better than no raise," she wrote. 

Without raises, Dashew tells us it has really hurt the retention of teachers. 

"I am frankly alarmed by the amount of teachers that have resigned in CMS this year," Dashew said. 

Cooper, a Democrat, and state leadership are negotiating on a two-year budget for July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2023. A report from WRAL last week said a deal isn't close between Republican leadership and the governor.

However, Speaker of the House Tim Moore said he expects a bipartisan budget will pass next week. 

"What I see is actually we are going to pass a budget next week we are very close right now," Moore said. 

Moore tells WCNC Charlotte that NC DPI will get everything that they are asking for including an increase in raises. 

"There will be significant raises for teachers and other state employee’s community colleges and university faculty, it really is a budget where we invest in folks trying to take care of the people in the classroom," Moore said. 

Contact Meghan Bragg at mbragg@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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