The proposed House budget for public education does not reflect a forward-looking vision for ensuring a high quality education to all North Carolina students. The budget fails to move the needle beyond near pre-recession spending for K-12 education. Excluding additional state funding for educator pay increases (based on a revised teacher salary schedule), under the House budget, state spending for K-12 schools remains below pre-recession funding and does little to boost investments in other areas of public education. All told, this budget reflects a series of wrong choices for North Carolina schools.
Highlights from the House budget for public schools include:
- With nearly 91,000 more students in K-12 classroom since 2008, state funding per pupil basis is 5.4 percent below pre-recession spending. When excluding additional state funding for educator pay increases, total spending for public schools in this budget is 0.51 percent below 2008 pre-recession spending when adjusted for inflation.
- Does not include $293 million in additional state funding needed to meet state mandated class size reduction over the next two years. This unfunded mandate will likely mean that school systems across the state will have to cut specialty teachers in order to offset the cost of new core subject teachers needed to bring down class sizes in the 2018-19 school year.
- Greater use of lottery receipts, rather than General Fund dollars, for public education investments. For example, the House budget cuts state funding for non-instructional support by $11.6 million and an additional $2 million cut the following year and replaces with lottery receipts. The budget includes a $50 million one-time cut in state General Fund funding for transportation services and replaces with lottery receipts.
- Includes a total of $8 million in state funding cuts for small innovative and specialty high schools as well as small county supplemental funding in part due to changes to allocation methods and other changes to the programs.
- Nearly doubles state funding for vouchers (the Opportunity Scholarship program) that allows students to attend private K-12 schools using public dollars. State leaders have ensured that the program will be provided additional state funding in the years ahead despite the program not being evaluated.
- Provides additional $10.3 million in one-time state funding for textbooks and digital resources for the 2017-18 school year. Under the House budget, state funding for this area of the public education budget would be 51 percent below 2010 peak spending and we would need $47 million to meet the current state-wide need.
- No additional state funding is provided includes instructional supplies – the existing funding level is less than half its peak 2010 investment level. The House budget also fails to provide additional state funding for school nurses in order to get the school nurse-to-students ratio closer to national standard of one nurse for per 750 students.
- Provides $11.3 million to increase the funding cap allotment for children with disabilities and includes $10 million to develop a plan to modernize business systems used by DPI.
Cedric D. Johnson is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.
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