Senate’s public schools budget reflects diminished expectations and limited possibilities for NC

Public schools will continue to operate with constrained resources under the Senate’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget leaves most needs across the K-12 education budget unaddressed, aside from providing additional funding for pay raises for teachers and school leaders and funding enrollment growth. The additional funding for teacher pay increases are made possible in part from cuts to General Fund appropriations for other core education investments that support children’s educational success. Furthermore, state leaders continue to rely more on lottery dollars, rather than General Fund appropriations, to fund core areas of the education budget.

As a result, state funding per student under this budget is 8 percent below 2008 pre-recession spending.* This education budget represents the diminished expectations and limited possibilities for North Carolina that are a result of state leaders’ preference for more and more tax cuts (included in the budget) and their misguided budget decisions based on an arbitrary spending target that fails to account for the actual needs of public schools.

Highlights from the Senate budget for public schools:

Additional Spending
• Provides $324 million for pay raises for teachers and school leaders. In prior budgets, funding for pay raises are included in the Reserves section of the state budget.
• Provides $46.7 million to account for student enrollment growth.
• Provides $27 million for additional 2nd-grade classroom teacher positions to reduce student-to-teacher ratio by one student.
• Provides $10 million for a newly created 3rd-grade reading program that provides bonus payments to reading teachers in the top 25 percent statewide and top 25 percent within their LEAs based on student growth in reading scores.
• Provides $632,500 of additional state funding for special education scholarships by 15 percent. (this funding is included in the UNC System budget.)
• Places $34.8 million in a newly established reserve fund to provide public dollars for students to attend private schools. (this funding is included in the UNC System budget.)

Funding Switches
• Replaces $57.3 million in General Funds with lottery dollars for non-instructional supplies. This area of the K-12 education budget is now completely dependent on lottery funding.
• Replaces $50 million in General Funds with lottery dollars for Transportation.
• Changes $9.2 million in General Funds for textbooks and digital materials to non-recurring funding from recurring funding – meaning this funding is not guaranteed beyond this upcoming school year.

Funding Cuts
• Cuts state funding by $4.7 million for grants to after-school providers for students in at-risk environments.
• Cuts funding by $5 million for central office administration for local school districts.
• Cuts $10 million for school connectivity initiative that was included in original two-year budget passed last year by state lawmakers.
• Imposes a $2.19 million funding cut to Department of Public Instruction, the state-level central office.

Examples of Things Missing in Budget Proposal
• Additional funding for school nurses in order to get nurse-to-student ratio closer to recommended national average.
• Additional funding for classroom and instructional supplies to reduce the amount of money teachers have to spend out of their pockets in order to ensure they are able to do their jobs.
• Boost in funding for textbooks and digital supplies. Under Senate budget, total state funding for this area remains 51 percent below peak spending level in 2010.
• Funding for professional development for teachers and school leaders.

* State funding provided in Senate FY17 budget is not included in state funding per student figures to remain consistent with previous state budgets, which included this funding in the Reserves section of the state budget.

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