As N.C. Senate preps budget, teachers make the case for more K-12 funding

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week.

And with news out of Raleigh suggesting North Carolina’s state Senate leaders intend to follow through on their pledge to release their budget plans in the early part of this week, some of the state’s top K-12 leaders are making their case again for a far greater investment in public schools and teachers.

Case in point: Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators, an organization that reps for public school teachers at the legislature, authored an op-ed in The News & Observer this weekend declaring the need for state lawmakers to increase state spending on schools.

Currently, the state ranks 43rd nationally in per-pupil spending and just 41st in teacher pay, although GOP leadership in the Senate has indicated teacher raises will be a top priority in their spending plan. Meanwhile, lagging K-12 administrator pay has also been a sore spot for public school advocates who point out the state is ranked near the bottom of the nation in this category as well.

Broad tax cuts are also expected to be a major piece of the budget slated to be unveiled this week, much to the chagrin of progressives and Democrats who say Republican lawmakers have skimped on the state’s essential services.

From Jewell’s op-ed:

Too often we think we know what teachers do, but we don’t really know because we are not listening to those who teach. We rely on teachers to educate children, but if we listen closely they can teach us about what is going on in schools. More often than not, what we will hear them say is that they are successful at teaching when students and educators have all the tools they need to be successful. Unfortunately, that is not happening in many public school classrooms in North Carolina. Textbooks are over a decade old; in some, former President Barack Obama is listed as a senator from Illinois. We continually ask for parents to cover the cost of the basics like paper and pencils. And now most educators turn to GoFundMe pages to cover students’ needs.

North Carolina is 43rd in the nation in per-pupil spending. The state’s track record on this key education investment measure is dismal, and we continue to fall further behind. In 2011-12, North Carolina was more than $2,300 behind the national average and now we are more than $3,000 behind. Of North Carolina’s per-pupil expenditure of $8,898, more than $5,000 comes from the state, yet we spend about $30,000 per year on an inmate. Are these the right priorities? Our students deserve better.

Also, some of our elected leaders continue to focus on massive tax cuts for corporations. We should be focusing on classrooms, not boardrooms. So during National Teacher Appreciation Week, thank educators for the difference they make in our lives. The biggest difference we can make in theirs is to ensure their students have the schools they deserve so they have every opportunity at success.

Continue to follow Policy Watch this week for updates on the budget and analysis of how the state Senate’s plan is expected to impact public schools.

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