House lawmakers unveiled their 2015-17 biennial budget Thursday morning—and education proposals were longer on policy pitches than big figure changes, including measures that would affect student assessment & classroom staffing models as well as seven different pilot programs aimed at teacher preparation, workforce development and remediation, among other ideas.
The budget also did not include a much anticipated announcement on teacher pay — that’s to come at the beginning of next week.
Read on for a list of highlights.
K-12 House Budget
School vouchers: Provided the Supreme Court allows the Opportunity Scholarships program to proceed, which provides students with state funds to attend private schools, House lawmakers propose a $6.8 million increase for 2015-16—bringing the annual cost of program to $17.6 million
Disability vouchers: Students with disabilities would be able to use up to $8,000 state funds annually to attend private schools—that’s up from $6,000 annually in prior years. Families could also get tuition funds up front versus having to wait for reimbursement.
Teacher assistants: Lawmakers added $88.9 million compared to the base each year — but the move is just to backfill the loss in lottery receipts and other nonrecurring funds. So the takeaway is that there’s no real change here–funding levels remain the same as ’14-15.
Textbooks & digital resources: $50 million (for textbooks) compared to the base each year, with a cumulative increase during the biennium of $100 million. Textbook funding has been obliterated in recent years.
Differentiated pay: HB 662 – Elevating Educators Act stalled in the House, so lawmakers have inserted it into the budget. With $15 million over two years, the proposal could provide an avenue for a total restructuring of how classroom instruction is delivered, offering increased pay to master teachers who supervise other teachers in a team-led effort. The initiative could also increase class sizes. Modeled after Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture.
Charter schools: $2 million over two years would be provided to Parents for Educational Freedom NC to run a program that aims to expand charter schools across the state. There’s also a special provision directing the State Board of Ed to study the requirement that charter schools have a $50,000 reserve fund in the event they are shut down, with special consideration of possibly providing some charters waivers for the $50k requirement.
Driver’s education: State funding is scheduled to dry up for driver’s ed this upcoming year, placing a huge financial burden on local districts. House lawmakers are proposing to keep funds going with $26 million in ’15-16 and likely more to come for the following year too.
Transportation: Lawmakers are projecting that the cost of fuel will stay low over the biennium, so they’ve decreased the school transportation budget by $20 million compared to the base each year of the biennium.
Bonuses for AP/IB teachers: Teachers who have students that score high on AP and IB exams could get $50 bonuses. Total cost of proposal would be around $8 million over two years.
Teacher pay: TBA next week, but likely to be beginning teachers’ starting salaries boosted up to $35,000.
Higher education House budget
Overall, the UNC system fares okay, although figures don’t begin to restore the massive cuts they’ve seen over the past several years. Total UNC budget is up $33 million for ’15-16 and enrollment growth is fully funded.
Notably, a special provision in the House budget would allow students of certain online private universities to receive need-based state aid. Western Governors University fits the criteria listed in the provision for eligible institutions.
The teacher recruitment scholarship program that bears a resemblance to the now-defunct NC Teaching Fellows program is also in the House budget. At a cost of $3.2 million over the biennium, scholarships would be given to education students who will teach in hard to staff regions and subject areas.
Here’s a look at the bottom line:
To read all of the House education budget documents, click here.
*This post has been updated to provide better clarity on figures for teacher assistants, transportation and textbooks.