There’s a lot to process in the mammoth document, so let’s just get started with the basics on education, and I promise you — there will be more to come.
Lawmakers say they’ve provided an average 7 percent pay increase for teachers in this budget, but there’s widespread dispute over that figure since longevity pay has been wrapped up into the pay raises.
To see a side-by-side comparison of the old and new teacher pay schedules, click here.
Senator Phil Berger called the teacher pay raise the largest in North Carolina’s history, although the folks at ProgressNC fact-checked that claim and found it to be false.
Lawmakers say TAs are “preserved” this year in the budget, but there are a few catches.
Lottery revenues will pay for a share of the funding for teacher assistants, and a portion of TAs will also be funded with non-recurring funds – meaning there will be another fight to keep them next year.
Also mentioned at Tuesday’s press conference– $65 million that was supposed to pay for TAs was moved back into funding for teacher positions. But local superintendents have the “flexibility” to move that money back over and save more TAs.
*However, that figure is not apparent in the budget’s money report. What we do know, however, is that in the certified 2014-15 budget, TAs were slated to cost $477,433,254 — but this latest budget spends $368.3 million.
Finally, while most state employees will get a $1,000 raise, TAs only get a $500 raise, along with public school custodial workers, cafeteria workers and other non-certified and central office personnel.
While lawmakers said on Tuesday they were able to preserve current funding levels for the university system, what actually is in place is a now slightly increased $76 million dollar cut that was in the original two-year budget passed in July 2013, but not in the most recent budget proposals.
This cut comes on top of years of cuts to the university system that have resulted in thousands of lost jobs and eliminated courses.
In 2011, the state’s universities had to cut $80 million, or 3.4 percent of its overall budget. Five hundred classes were eliminated, 3,000 jobs were cut and another 1,500 vacant jobs were eliminated. In the four years prior to 2011, state funding to the university system was slashed by $1.2 billion.
Funding for textbooks gets a paltry $1 million bump–a far cry from the additional $23 million Gov. McCrory called for. This brings the textbook budget up to $24 million, which is a fraction of what the textbook budget was a few years ago, when it was around $116 million.
The Opportunity Scholarship program is expanded by $840,000 to pay for 400 additional scholarships worth $2,100 for the spring semester.
Virtual charter schools
The budget directs the State Board of Education to establish a pilot program to authorize the operation of two virtual charter schools.
Virtual charter schools have been trying to make inroads in North Carolina, but haven’t succeeded yet.
Many question the quality of academic instruction that virtual charter schools can provide, but proponents say the platform can offera much-needed choice to students who aren’t being served well in traditional school environments.
Read about virtual charter school provider K12, Inc.’s attempts to set up shop in North Carolina here.
Master’s degree pay
Teachers who have advanced degrees as well as those who took one course in a master’s program before August 1, 2013 will receive the supplemental salary bump that has been afforded to those who further their education.
But going forward, it looks like those who get advanced degrees may not see that benefit.
Department of Public Instruction
Lawmakers cut DPI’s budget by 10 percent – not as severe as the Senate’s original 30 percent proposal, but far greater than the House’s and Governor’s 1 percent cut.
Not an exhaustive list — and stay tuned for more stories on how these changes and cuts will affect educators and students.
*This post was updated to add information about the budget for teacher assistants.