NC Budget and Tax Center

A report released today by Budget & Tax Center highlights that state support for early childhood development, public schools, and public colleges and universities remains below investment levels prior to the Great Recession. This trend will persist under the current budget passed by state lawmakers that North Carolinians must live through until July of 2017. The annual cost of tax cuts in 2015 balloons to over $1 billion each year within four years, and comes on top of costly tax cuts passed by state lawmakers in 2013.

Ensuring high-quality learning and education opportunities for all North Carolina children and students remains a challenge as the student population grows and best practices in the classroom evolve. The BTC report highlights areas of inadequate investment in North Carolina’s education pipeline.

  • State funding for NC Pre-K is 15 percent lower when adjusted for inflation than the 2009 budget year, when funding and the number of children served peaked. This year, more than 6,400 fewer state-funded slots are available in NC Pre-K than in 2009 despite more than 7,200 children being on NC Pre-K wait lists last year.
  • State support for the Smart Start program, which promotes school readiness for North Carolina children from birth to age five, is nearly 40 percent below 2009 when adjusted for inflation.
  • State funding per-pupil for public K-12 schools is nearly 9 percent below its 2008 pre-recession funding level when adjusted for inflation.
  • Compared to peak funding in the 2008 budget year, state support per student at four-year public universities this year is down nearly 16 percent while tuition have increased significantly during this time period.
  • Tuition at community colleges has increased by 81 percent since 2009.

The report highlights other areas of diminished and lagging support for public education – the decline in state funding for classroom textbooks, for example – and how state lawmakers shifted existing state dollars from one area to another to make state support for public education appear more generous than in reality.

Public investments in early childhood development, quality public schools, and affordable higher education are essential building blocks of long-term economic growth and shared prosperity. Yet amid an uneven and slow economic recovery, state policymakers chose to deliver greater benefits to the wealthiest few rather than boosting investments in its education pipeline to ensure access to opportunity for all North Carolina children and students, the report notes.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Tax cuts in North Carolina’s biennium budget will cost the state $841.8 million through June 2017, according to a new report from the N.C. Budget & Tax Center. Gutting these funds would deal a heavy blow to support for programs in areas like early childhood development and public schools.

Check out the full brief here.

Commentary

It’s one thing for the state’s conservative advocacy “think tanks” to be virtual subsidiaries of the fossil fuel industry and plutocrats like the Koch Brothers, but it’s  distressingly clear these days that the same can also be said for the state agency leaders whose supposed job is to protect the environment. How else to explain this story from WRAL’s Laura Leslie:

“NC environmental chief backs restriction on solar farms, incentives for nuclear plants

The solar industry has blossomed in North Carolina since lawmakers granted solar farms tax breaks nine years ago as part of renewable energy standards that require utilities to get a portion of their power from renewable sources.

North Carolina ranks fourth nationally in solar energy capacity, and the industry employs about 5,600 people in the state, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association….

Now, critics of solar are trying to rein in the industry by rewriting state laws, and the head of the state Department of Environmental Quality is leading the charge, pushing the state Energy Policy Council to recommend some major changes.

One proposal discussed Wednesday would require a state permit for any new solar farm. That would give the state the final say on whether a property owner can lease his or her land for solar. It would also require a bond for eventual removal of the equipment….

A second proposal would redefine the state’s renewable energy standard to include nuclear energy. The proposed ‘clean energy standard’ would even allow incentives for new nuclear plants, which van der Vaart said are needed to back up less dependable sources such as solar.

‘Simply recognizing that nuclear energy is clean and needs to be incentivized, that is what the renewable energy portfolio standard is for,’ he said. ‘This is meant to expand our portfolio.'”

You got that? The folks who hate all things that smack of government regulation have now decided, all of a sudden, that they like it when it comes to solar power. Meanwhile, they are championing nuclear power (and even natural gas, according to other reports) as sources to be classified as “clean energy.”

Now, in fairness, there is nothing inherently wrong with public oversight of solar power installations and it’s true that nuclear and gas plants do not produce the volumes of greenhouse gases that coal-fired electric generating plants do. If the McCrory administration had anything akin to a responsible record when it comes to environmental protection, one could even imagine a productive discussion over such topics.

Unfortunately, given the all out war on the environment  that has been one of the administration’s hallmarks throughout its three years in office, it’s hard to see this latest action as anything other than the latest volley.

News
N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson

It’s a long, long way from action on the N.C. General Assembly floor, but N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson today called for a 10 percent raise for all teachers in North Carolina.

“We need to get at the core reasons why teachers leave the classroom or go to another state,” said Atkinson.

It’s an important year for teacher raises, as many public education advocates point out recent pay increases passed on by GOP leadership in the legislature have brought the average teacher pay in North Carolina to just 42nd in the nation, with average pay of more than $47,000.

The national average exceeds $57,000, according to the National Education Association. 

And, with 2016 being an election year, some leaders in the legislature have publicly stated their intentions for some sort of raises this year.

On Wednesday, Atkinson, addressing the House Select Committee on Education Strategy and Practices, called for a “wedding cake” approach to teacher pay.

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News

Several immigrant rights groups across the Triangle will stage a vigil this afternoon to protest recent immigrant raids. This event is one of several actions occurring simultaneously across the Southeast. In Washington, DC members of the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN) will be delivering a petition of 66,000 signatures asking President Obama to stop the raids.

Here’s more from the folks at El Pueblo, one of the organizers of the event in Raleigh:

Today at 5pm, grassroots leaders will be organizing a community vigil to demonstrate solidarity with the children and families who have been detained as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s recent immigrant raids. Speakers will include members of the Latino community who have been personally affected by the deportations, and attendees are asked to bring white balloons, kites and teddy bears to represent the children who are being forced back to their home countries.

The vigil will take place outside of the Wake County Detention Center, at 3301 Hammond Rd in Raleigh.

At the end of the holiday season, The Department of Homeland Security began increasing raids against Central American children and families who entered the country after January 1st, 2014. The DHS has since elaborated on the matter, saying that their priority targets include those who have been issued final orders of removal and have exhausted all legal remedies.
Several immigrant rights groups in the Triangle, including Hendfact, Si a Las Licencias and El Pueblo, have spoken out against the raids, condemning the detention and deportation of families as an act of violence.

“The DHS is ignoring the refugee conditions of these children and families, forcing them back into areas that have been greatly affected by drug wars,” says Iliana Santillán, community organizer for El Pueblo. “To send a child back into such conditions goes against our very core values, and we’re assembling here to speak on behalf of those who have been refused sanctuary by this government.”

When: Wednesday, January 27th from 5-8pm.
Where: Wake County Detention Center, 3301 Hammond Rd, Raleigh NC 27610