North Carolina’s education needs are once again going unmet in the public schools budget proposed by House leaders for the upcoming fiscal year because tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable corporations have taken priority over reinvestment. Beyond funding that will likely be included in a final budget for teacher pay increases, the public schools budget includes a paltry 0.15 percent increase in spending over the original budget passed by state lawmakers last year. This modest spending for public schools fails to address ongoing unmet needs such as adequate funding for textbooks, classroom materials and instructional resources, professional development for teachers and school leaders, and schools nurses, among other areas.
State leaders continue to face a self-inflicted constrained revenue landscape that presents false choices regarding state budget decisions. Highlights from the House budget for K-12 public schools include:
- Provides $46.7 million to account for enrollment growth of more than 5,800 students in public schools.
- Replaces $57.3 million in General Fund dollars with lottery dollars for non-instructional support personnel. State lawmakers replaced $345 million in General Fund dollars with lottery dollars for this area for the current school year. The proposed change would result in this area of the public education budget being fully supported by lottery funding and continues the trend of a greater reliance on lottery dollars for public education.
- Provides $5 million in one-time, non-recurring funding for instructional supplies. Under the House budget, state funding for instructional supplies would remain nearly 50 percent below peak 2009 spending when adjusted for inflation.
- Provides $11.6 million in one-time, non-recurring funding for textbooks and digital materials. Under House budget state funding for this area of the budget would remain 34 percent below pre-recession spending when adjusted for inflation, which results in NC students being limited by out-of-date resources.
- Provides $25 million for Literacy Coaches to support Read to Achieve initiative, which provides additional educational services to third-grade students who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade. State lawmakers expanded the initiative to 1st and 2nd graders last year.
- Cuts state funding for 1st and 2nd grade reading camps in half to $10 million from $20 million. Also changes nature of this funding from recurring to one-time, non-recurring funding.
- Cuts $26.8 million in state funding for additional 1st grade teaching positions that were supposed to be filled beginning with the upcoming 2016-17 school year. The cut means that these would-be state-funded teacher positions are no longer available.
- Provides $1.3 million to reinstate state funding for salary supplements to instructional coaches who have earned National Board certification.
- Changes nature of state funding for Communities in Schools to one-time from recurring funding. Communities in Schools is a local-based dropout prevention initiative dedicated to keeping kids in school and helping them to succeed.
- Provides $5.8 million to increase funding for Special Education Scholarship grants (vouchers), more than doubling the current budget. The program provides scholarship grants of up to $4,000 per semester for eligible K-12 students.