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When it comes to educating our children, the public is pretty clear in understanding you get what you pay for.

In a recent poll released by High Point University, 72% of respondents said they would favor a tax increase to raise teacher pay in North Carolina to the national average. These results are similar to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted in November which revealed that 68% of North Carolinians opposed cutting funding for public schools to provide taxpayers a tax cut.

Despite North Carolinians’ willingness to pay to ensure adequate funding of our public schools so that children can be better prepared for a 21st century economy, legislators moved in the opposite direction this past legislative session. Not only were teachers, whose salaries ranked 46th in the nation in 2012, denied a pay increase this year, but the salary incentive for teachers who earn master’s degree was eliminated and additional cuts were made to professional development and recruitment programs.

The legislature further undermined the ability of public education to prepare children for their future by reducing funds available for instructional supplies and textbooks, increasing teacher to student ratios and cutting funding for teacher assistants.

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The N.C. Education Lottery had an unusual sales pitch today, telling players that hitting it big in 2014 will mean less taxes and more winnings

In a tweet sent out this afternoon, the official state lottery Twitter account pointed out that the state’s new flat 5.8 percent income tax, which eliminated a progressive tax structure where the poorest pay a lower percentage of income taxes than those with higher incomes, is a bonus for lottery winners.

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The tweet links to two news releases put out by the state-run lottery that showcases how a Rocky Mount man with a $1 million Powerball ticket and a firefighter in the western part of the state are paying $7,000 to $12,000 less in income taxes in 2014 than they would have if they won in 2013.

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Disparities in economic opportunity for North Carolina’s workers have persisted for generations, including the last few decades when the state’s economy transformed away from manufacturing employment and toward service employment. These disparities have grown since the Great Recession, according to a newly released State of Working North Carolina report. Although the downturn’s economic pain was pervasive, it was not spread evenly throughout the state. The new report shows that some communities and regions were harder hit than others and continue to struggle with high unemployment and few opportunities for growth.

There are multiple storylines to this “tale of two economies” reality. One is the rural and urban divide. Read More

Much has been written about the impact of this year’s state budget on K-12, but for a third year in a row, the university system suffered the deepest cuts of the three branches of North Carolina’s education system.

The UNC-system saw its bottom line slashed by nearly $66 million for 2013-14 under the new state spending plan.

NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson says previous budget cuts resulted in larger class sizes and fewer class-sections.  This round of cuts will be even more difficult to achieve:

“Faculty, their workload, is already very high. And in fact they are doing a lot of administrative work they used to not have to do , because we have lost so many administrative positions,” explained Chancellor Woodson. “We’re going to step back from this and really think about the next phases of reorganization to help us adjust the university to what we think is the new norm in terms of state commitment to funding.”

Woodson appeared last weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the impact on higher education. To hear the full segment, visit the Radio Interview section of the NC Policy Watch website where you can listen online or download a podcast. For an excerpt from that interview, click below:
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It is true that the final budget reinvests in some programs and services to achieve an overall slight increase in General Fund appropriations. This reinvestment was made possible by using unspent dollars from last year’s budget, budget gimmicks, the reliance on tuition increases and fees, as well as reductions in other areas of the budget. However, state investments in most areas of the budget—including education—are failing to keep up after years of budget cuts.

There are two primary vantage points for analyzing the final budget and making comparisons over time.  One method is to measure the final budget against the actual dollars that were appropriated last year in the 2013 budget.  The other method measures the final budget against the continuation—or base—budget, which reflects the dollars needed in the next year to maintain current service levels.  The Governor’s Office of State Budget and Management, which is headed by Art Pope, collaborates with the various departments and agencies to determine the continuation requirements.

So, which vantage point makes for the best comparison? Read More