As the 2013 legislative session
winds down speeds to the finish line, what will lawmakers decide about public education? Lots of unanswered questions remain as a conference committee works down to the wire to decide the 2013-15 budget and several bills could see final votes this week.
A $50 million school voucher proposal was the most hotly debated education reform initiative in the House. Lawmakers may decide — behind closed doors, since the bill was inserted into the House budget proposal — to allow students to take $4,200 per year in public funds and use that money for for private school tuition. While some Senators have indicated they do not support school vouchers, Speaker Tillis has put his stamp of approval on the proposal.
Two bills affecting statewide charter school policy are in conference committee this week. HB 250 would allow charter schools to expand without having to gain approval from the State Board of Education, while SB 337 could weaken requirements for hiring certified teachers and having a racially diverse student population.
The House budget proposal includes a half million dollars for PEFNC to develop charter schools in rural areas.
HB 935, which would determine pre-K eligibility, hasn’t moved anywhere in a while. The House approved the bill, which would cut in half the number of children who could take advantage of pre-K.
There are currently over 29,000 students served by NC Pre-K. Under the Senate budget proposal, the number of children enrolled in NC Pre-K will actually decline by 7,500 slots in 2013-14 and 10,000 slots in 2014-15.
The House budget expands pre-K by 5,000 slots — but just as 5,000 slots are expiring at the end of June, so net additional slots would be zero. It would also restrict income eligibility and exclude students with disabilities or limited English proficiency.
Teach for America vs. Teaching Fellows
The Senate budget includes $5.1 million for the Teach for America program, whereas the House budget would provide $3.1 million to reinstate the Teaching Fellows program.
Teacher assistants have a huge impact in K-3 classrooms across the state. The Senate budget proposal takes a much bigger chunk out of the teacher assistant budget than does the House proposal, cutting some 4,580 jobs across the state. Keep in mind that many districts convert the teacher assistant funds into salaries for teachers as well.
The Senate budget would also lift caps on class size limits.
Even though North Carolina ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay, neither the House nor Senate budget proposals include raises for teachers — although they would get additional vacation days in the House budget.
Governor McCrory proposed a 1 percent pay raise for teachers in his budget.
The House and Senate budget proposals do away with supplemental pay for teachers who have master’s degrees.
The House budget proposal cuts the UNC system budget by $125 million, while the Senate cuts it by $48 million. Community colleges also take a $20 million hit in both the House and Senate budgets.
Follow me on Twitter this week, @LindsayWagnerNC, for the latest developments.