NC Budget and Tax Center

Two innovative programs that fight child hunger and promote learning

Ensuring that children begin each school day with food in their stomach is an important component of providing a high quality education to all North Carolina students. Combating child hunger helps address the unfortunate reality that 1 in 5 North Carolina children do not have reliable access to an adequate amount of affordable, nutritious food each day, which threatens their classroom learning experiences, well-being and life outcomes.

More than half of the more than 1.4 million students that attended North Carolina’s public schools for the 2015-16 school year qualified for free or reduced cost school meals – that’s around 749,000 students. However, far too many students don’t eat school meal programs for several reasons, such as a lack of time, the stigma associated with the traditional delivery method that schools use to serve school meals, and a lack of awareness about school meal programs.

Two particular anti-hunger initiatives have come to North Carolina in recent years that aim to increase the number of students eating school meals. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) initiative enables eligible schools that serve a high concentration of low-income students to offer a healthy school breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students. Furthermore, the Partners for Breakfast In Classroom (PBIC) initiative provides grants to eligible school to adopt breakfast delivery programs that allow students to eat school breakfast in the classroom after the first bell. The Budget & Tax Center is a state partner in the PBIC initiative. Read more

2018 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

Six amendments, six funerals, and one lackluster House budget

The NC House’s quick turnaround in debating and passing its proposed two-year state budget reflects the priorities and choices of House leadership. In less than 24 hours, House lawmakers gave two favorable votes for its proposed budget, but not before rejecting and dismissing a number of proposed amendments that would have boosted public investments that serve as bridges to opportunity and that promote thriving communities. These amendments were rejected as opponents claimed that we don’t have the money for these worthwhile investments and that we must stay the course with the austerity budget approach state leaders have pursued in recent years – a course that Kansas recently reversed after it left their state budget in tatters.

Six proposed amendments would have increased state support for public education, expanded access to opportunity for rural NC and provided a modest boost to the fixed incomes of state retirees. However, these six amendments were met with six quick funerals. A majority of House members voted against four of the amendments, and two were tabled and never got a vote on the House floor.

Six amendments that were rejected by House lawmakers   

Staying the course

For North Carolina, staying the course means prioritizing tax cuts – that have largely benefited the highest income earners in the state and profitable corporations – at the expense of public investments that promote broadly shared prosperity. The House budget includes a package of tax cuts that reduce available revenue by $120 million for fiscal year 2018 and by $246.1 million the following fiscal year. The price tag of tax cuts included in the House budget is nearly equivalent to total revenue needed to pay for all six of the highlighted amendments that met an unfortunate demise.

This is what stay the course means for North Carolina in 2017 and foreshadows the state’s future. Lawmakers have made the decision to reject boosting public investments amid an improving economy. They favor tax cuts that largely benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations rather than boosting state funding for public education, expanding access to opportunity for rural NC and helping ensure that state retirees can make ends meet on fixed incomes. This post-mortem of six amendments and six funerals highlights how the priorities and choices of House leadership resulted in a lackluster budget. The writing is on the wall, and it doesn’t read well for North Carolina. Just ask Kansas.

Cedric D. Johnson is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

2018 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

House budget chooses not to promote safer and healthier communities

The proposed budget for Justice & Public Safety (JPS) by the House is notable more for what’s not included rather than what’s included. The JPS reflects the austerity budgeting approach that state leaders have taken in recent years despite an improving economy. Overall, the budget fails to seize upon opportunities to further promote safe and healthy communities across North Carolina.

Here are notable highlights from the proposed House budget for Justice &Public Safety.

  • Provides no additional state funding for indigent individuals to have access to private counsel representation. By contrast, the Governor’s recommended budget includes $2.9 million in state funding in the first year and an additional $2.6 million in the second year to increase compensation paid to private counsel representing indigent persons. Reduced rates in prior years have affected the courts’ ability to recruit and retain private counsel.
  • Provides small amount of state funding, a total of $250,000, for an opioid pilot project with the City of Wilmington, same as Senate’s proposed budget. The Governor’s recommended budget, by contrast, provides $2 million in one-time state funding for grants to local law enforcement to combat opioid abuse.
  • Provides no additional state funding for initiatives that support Justice Reinvestment Act. The Governor’s budget includes a total of $4 million in state funding to continue the implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA). The JRA was passed in 2011 in an effort to reduce state spending on corrections and to reinvest the savings in community programs that decrease crime and strengthen neighborhoods.
  • Provides no additional state funding for services provided to offenders with mental illness. The Governor’s recommended budget provides $5.8 million in the first year and an additional $6.8 million in the second year to enhance services for mentally ill offenders, with the goal of decreasing the likelihood of post-release mental health challenges and associated costs.

Cedric D. Johnson is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

For more news and analysis during the budget debate, follow the Budget & Tax Center on Twitter @ncbudgetandtax.

2018 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

House budget makes more cuts to higher education, leaves needs unmet

The House budgets for post-secondary education – the UNC System and the Community College System – continues the path of lackluster investment that state leaders have taken in recent years. Beyond state funding provided for pay raises, the House budget is still below pre-recession spending for our community colleges and public four-year universities. The budget continues to make cuts to the university system, fails to do more to make postsecondary education more affordable for North Carolina students and families, and does little to ensure support services or programming needs are available to increase credential and degree attainment. These are all the wrong choices for higher education in North Carolina.

Highlights from the House proposed budgets for post-secondary education include:

  • Makes no additional investments beyond funding enrollment growth for student support services or programming needs to increase credential and degree attainment – similar to the Senate’s proposed budget. By contrast, the Governor’s proposed budget provides additional state funding for continuing education courses at the same level as curriculum courses and provides financial assistance to those seeking industry-recognized credentials.
  • Establishes a program that provides tuition scholarships to high-achieving NC resident students at community colleges. The Governor’s budget establishes a scholarship program to fund community college tuition and fees for eligible high school graduates from North Carolina, and would likely serve more students.
  • Provides only $2 million in one-time state funding to assist community colleges with start-up costs for certain high-cost workforce training programs.
  • Provides no additional state funding to reduce tuition cost at community colleges, which has increased by 81 percent since 2009.
  • Requires the UNC System to make a one-time cut to its operating budget by $21.9 million in the first year and another $28 million flexibility cut the following year.
  • Cuts state funding by $53.4 million for UNC need-based financial aid and replaces with lottery receipts, which are considered one-time dollars. The House budget fails to provide any additional state funding for need-based grant aid to ensure access to a post-secondary education is affordable and reduce the need to take on student loan debt.
  • Provides $2.7 million in one-time funding to offset enrollment declines related to Hurricane Matthew, $3 million for faculty recruitment and retention within UNC System, and an additional $10 million in largely one-time funding for data collection, modernization and integration data analytics projects.
2018 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

House budget the wrong choice for public education

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.

For more news and analysis during the budget debate, follow the Budget & Tax Center on Twitter @ncbudgetandtax.