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Falling Behind in NC, NC Budget and Tax Center

This is the 4th post of a Budget and Tax Center blog series on public services and programs that face cuts in the budget process or have been underfunded in past years. See the other posts here and here and here.

Chances are schools across North Carolina will continue to rely on outdated textbooks and limited resources for classroom supplies for the upcoming school year. The Senate budget approved last week fails to provide additional funding for these two classroom areas in the wake of dramatic state funding cuts to both textbooks and classroom instructional supplies in recent years.

Since the 2009-10 fiscal year, state funding for textbooks has been cut by 81 percent, down from $119 million when adjusted for inflation to around $23 million for the current school year. As for classroom materials and instructional supplies, state funding has been cut by nearly 47 percent since FY 2009-10, down from $90.7 million when adjusted for inflation to around $50 million for the current school year. Local schools systems have been challenged with replacing these state funding cuts with other funding sources or continuing the trend of doing more with fewer resources.

K-12 ed_Textbook & Classroom Supplies
Inadequate state funding for textbooks means the continued use of outdated textbooks, and in some cases schools have resorted to making photocopies from textbooks to ensure that students have learning materials. Diminished funding for classroom instructional materials has meant teachers having to reach into their pockets to buy supplies for classroom instruction.

The decision to not restore funding for textbooks and classroom material and supplies in the Senate budget comes on the heels of policymakers passing a tax plan last year that significantly reduces annual revenue for public investments now and in the years ahead. Policymakers now face huge revenue shortfalls for the current budget as well as for the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year budget, which are driven by the tax plan passed last year. This foregone revenue could have help boost investments in our public schools.

As House budget writers work to put together their proposed budget, restoring funding for textbooks and classroom supplies would represent a positive step in promoting a quality education for all North Carolina students. Revenue options are available to responsibly demonstrate this commitment. Policymakers should stop the additional income tax cuts slated to go into effect January 2015. Doing so would allow for greater investments in the state’s future workforce, and in turn, the Tar Heel state as a whole.

Uncategorized

It looks like the North Carolina Senate will ram through its version of a state budget sometime early Saturday morning under the cover of darkness. It will be an apt time for this dreadful piece of legislation. The bill was crafted in secret so it makes sense that it will be passed by the right-wing lawmakers who put it together (a few of whom may have even read it) while most of the rest of the citizenry sleeps.

But, of course, it is much more than just the way the budget bill was put together that marks it as one of the worst proposals in North Carolina history; it is the destructive substance of it. At its heart, the Senate budget is about destruction — about the latest assault in an ideologically-inspired blitzkrieg against the core public structures that knit together a middle class society. The North Carolina Senate has gone all-in with the Grover Norquist-Rush Limbaugh-Tea Party crowd that believes that government and public servies are inherently evil.

There are many descriptors that fit the Senate plan — especially the hyper-cynical proposal to steal money from everyone else in order to give teachers a raise (a raise predicated upon their surrender of the right not to be fired arbitrarily): “The Divide and Conquer Budget,” “the Blackmail Budget,” “the Extortion Budget,” “the Blood Money Budget,” “the Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Budget,” “the Art Pope-Koch Brothers Fantasy Budget.” Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue rightfully likened to Senate plan to a proposal to burn down the schoolhouse in order to give teachers the insurance money.

Whatever one calls the darned thing, though, one thing is crystal clear: Right now, all that stands between North Carolina and the prospect of being reduced to some kind of bizarre Ayn Randian lab experiment is an ambitious conservative U.S. Senate nominee and a hapless and mostly disinterested governor who has yet to show any real ability to influence the lawmaking process. Dark days, indeed.

If there was ever a time for average North Carolinians to stand up and fight back, now is that time. One good opportunity will take place next Monday at 5:00 pm on Halifax Mall when the Moral Mondays-Forward Together protesters return to the Legislative Building. Hope to see you there.

NC Budget and Tax Center

The Governor’s budget irresponsibly jeopardizes North Carolina’s future economic prospects.

There are two main reasons: it uses one-time money that won’t be there in years to come, and it makes cuts in key areas that are the building blocks of a strong economy.

Self-inflicted revenue shortfalls resulting from the tax plan enacted last year mean fewer dollars to build a strong foundation for the state’s economy and improve the lives of all North Carolinians. The Governor’s use of one-time money and cuts to key areas, like higher education and health, are shortsighted and harmful to the state’s long-term stability and growth.

The Governor should put forward a responsible plan to pay for his priorities by stopping any further tax cuts from going into effect and urging legislators to re-examine the tax decisions made last year.  Next year’s financial gap has the potential to grow even larger as the costs of personal income tax changes are felt. State policymakers would do well to plan for that impact and its potential devastating effect on families and the state’s economy.

Uncategorized

Here’s a story that’s unfortunately gotten very little, if any, play in the North Carolina mainstream news media. It comes, interestingly enough, from national NBC News:

“How politics buries science in landslide mapping

The six geologists were just starting their work, climbing the mountains of Western North Carolina to map the debris left behind by landslides over millions of years, when the political footing gave way beneath them. Opposition had been building from real estate agents, from home builders planning subdivisions, and then from politicians. When all that energy was released, the science was crushed flat.

The new Republican leadership in the legislature cut off all funding for the state’s landslide mapping project in 2011, and the five geologists were laid off. They had mapped just four of 19 counties. Only one geologist kept a state job, but he is not allowed to do any landslide mapping. Another is helping a mining company search for gold. Two are in private practice. The fifth is checking the work of road paving crews. And the sixth moved to Virginia, mapping landslides until the temporary funding for that project ran out.

Against the backdrop of the March 22 mudslide in Washington state, which killed 33 people and left 12 still missing as of Monday, geologists say the story of the team in North Carolina illustrates how America has never put forth a serious effort to learn from the earth’s past. Geology experts say science is often a casualty of land politics, as the nation fails to protect others who are unaware they are at risk from deadly landslides….”

Read the rest of this excellent and very disturbing story by clicking here.

Tracking the Cuts: The Dismantling of Our Public Schools

The Philadelphia City Paper’s Daniel Denvir published this story today about a 12-year-old girl who began experiencing an asthmatic episode while at school, did not get the medical attention she needed because there was no school nurse available thanks to budget cuts, and died later that day.

While it cannot be determined for certain if the girl, 12-year-old Laporshia Massey, would have survived had a school nurse been on-site, we do know this much, according to the City Paper:

  • The School District of Philadelphia, long underfunded and now reeling from budget cuts implemented by Gov. Tom Corbett, has nearly 3,000 fewer staff members than it did in June.
  • Today, there are 179 nurses working in public, private and parochial schools, down from 289 in 2011.
  • Bryant Elementary, where Massey was attending school, only has one nurse on staff two days/week.
  • After the initial cuts, one protesting nurse at Bryant Elementary specifically warned that other staff were not competent to deal with asthmatic students in her absence.

North Carolina is dealing with its own school budget cut woes thanks to reduced spending on education by state lawmakers this year. We’re tracking the cuts local school districts have had to make — click here to read those accounts.

While I have not yet seen reports of eliminating school nurse positions, I have seen reports of eliminating school psychologist positions, in addition to teacher assistants, teachers, and administrative staff.

Do you have school budget cuts to report or stories to tell that are a direct consequence of reduced funds for your school? Let us know at lindsay@ncpolicywatch.com