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Reorganization saves jobs at Department of Public Instruction

General Assembly cuts to the Department of Public Instruction this past session will yield no lay offs and the potential for new hires, thanks to some clever reorganizing on the parts of two state leaders.

State Superintendent June Atkinson and State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey were given the power by the State Board last month to implement the General Assembly-mandated 5 percent ($2.5 million) reductions at DPI. This month, they turned into the Board a document that cuts about 18 positions. But those 18 positions aren’t really going away. Three are currently vacant, and those positions will disappear, Atkinson said. But the rest will move to handle work under the General Assembly’s Excellent Public Schools Act, for which DPI received $3.8 million from legislators this past session.

“Please remember that it’s a matter of moving from state funding to state funding,” Atkinson said.

By that, she means that the General Assembly gives DPI money to carry out many different laws enacted in legislative chambers, and the funding stream from the Excellent Public Schools Act is just one of many.

The employees that are moving will be handling aspects of the Act which relate to their positions. For instance, Atkinson said that about eight positions from the District and School Transformation and Accountability departments will be shifted. The Excellent Public Schools Act has provisions — support for evaluation and reading in schools as well as accountability — which will be handled by those employees. She also said that some of these positions have already been doing Excellent Public Schools Act work.

Personnel accounts for $1,737,409 of the 5 percent reduction, and $762,591 in operations reductions make up the rest.

As a result of Atkinson and Cobey’s work, nobody at DPI will be laid off. And Cobey says DPI may even need to hire a few more people to fulfill its work on the Excellent Public Schools Act.

The report given to the Board at this week’s State Board of Education meeting lays out a number of considerations Atkinson and Cobey had to take under advisement when coming up with the reductions. These include the “abolishment” of 165 positions that were covered by Race to the Top funds, a voluntary turnover rate of 13.5 percent, the loss of 210 positions from 2008-09 to now, and the fact that the budgets of DPI and the State Board are only one half of one percent of all funding for state public schools.

Cobey said that policies and programs passed by the General Assembly fall in the lap of DPI and the State Board, and they have to find a way to get it all done with quality personnel.

“The work keeps coming our way, and we have to have a certain amount of funding and we have to have competitive salaries,” he said.

The reductions have been submitted to the Office of State Budget and Management.

Here is the report.

Here is DPI’s new organizational chart.

Here is a chart on alignment between the work of DPI and the goals of the State Board.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.