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Education-budgetLate last night, lawmakers released a final budget deal brokered between the House and Senate that provides pay raises for teachers and a number of other education funding adjustments.

There’s a lot to process in the mammoth document, so let’s just get started with the basics on education, and I promise you — there will be more to come.

Teacher Pay

Lawmakers say they’ve provided an average 7 percent pay increase for teachers in this budget, but there’s widespread dispute over that figure since longevity pay has been wrapped up into the pay raises.

To see a side-by-side comparison of the old and new teacher pay schedules, click here.

Senator Phil Berger called the teacher pay raise the largest in North Carolina’s history, although the folks at ProgressNC fact-checked that claim and found it to be false.

Teacher Assistants

Lawmakers say TAs are “preserved” this year in the budget, but there are a few catches.

Lottery revenues will pay for a share of the funding for teacher assistants, and a portion of TAs will also be funded with non-recurring funds – meaning there will be another fight to keep them next year.

Also mentioned at Tuesday’s press conference– $65 million that was supposed to pay for TAs was moved back into funding for teacher positions. But local superintendents have the “flexibility” to move that money back over and save more TAs.

*However, that figure is not apparent in the budget’s money report. What we do know, however, is that in the certified 2014-15 budget, TAs were slated to cost $477,433,254 — but this latest budget spends $368.3 million.

Finally, while most state employees will get a $1,000 raise, TAs only get a $500 raise, along with public school custodial workers, cafeteria workers and other non-certified and central office personnel.

Higher Education

While lawmakers said on Tuesday they were able to preserve current funding levels for the university system, what actually is in place is a now slightly increased $76 million dollar cut that was in the original two-year budget passed in July 2013, but not in the most recent budget proposals.

This cut comes on top of years of cuts to the university system that have resulted in thousands of lost jobs and eliminated courses.

In 2011, the state’s universities had to cut $80 million, or 3.4 percent of its overall budget. Five hundred classes were eliminated, 3,000 jobs were cut and another 1,500 vacant jobs were eliminated. In the four years prior to 2011, state funding to the university system was slashed by $1.2 billion. Read More

The market capitalism lovers at Forbes announced today for the fifth time in eight years that the Raleigh metro area is the nation’s best for business and careers. Here are the factors highlighted first in the story

Fueling Raleigh’s consistent results are business costs that are 18% below the national average, and an adult population where 42% have a college degree, the 12th best rate in the U.S. (30% is the national average). Raleigh is home to North Carolina State University and nearby schools include Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The area’s appeal has led to a strong inflow of new residents to the city, which boasts the sixth fastest net migration rate over the past five years. (Emphasis supplied.)

Perhaps the Forbes people could share this information with their fellow travelers over at the Raleigh-based Pope Center for Higher Education, which has been banging the drum for years that — we are not making this up — North Carolina has too many college students and graduates and the value of higher education has been “oversold.”

Sex license plateWe’ve known for a long time that the chief mission of the Pope Center for Higher Education is to undermine and dismantle North Carolina’s system of universities and community colleges. As reported in this space on numerous occasions, the group puts out almost-daily missives calling for higher education to be privatized, more expensive and more exclusive.

But why? What’s behind this strange hatred for something that most people would regard as American as apple pie? A new fundraiser from the group may finally contain to key to understanding the Pope Center’s peculiar mania: the problem is that students are having too much fun.

In an appeal sent out yesterday the group list five things that it claims will happen if one sends them money. Here is #3:

3) Academic quality will take center stage.
If alumni learn that general education at most schools is lousy (we have published a detailed report on UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State), that grade inflation is rampant, and there’s still too much partying and sex. They will insist on improvements.” (Emphasis supplied).

Ah hah — the truth comes out! It always seemed a safe bet that the Pope people were a cadre of Vernon Wormer wannabes. Now, there’s confirmation.

 

Test_takingAs North Carolina contemplates ditching the Common Core State Standards, the state might also want to contemplate this reality: the two preeminent college entrance exams in the United States, the ACT and the SAT, will be aligned with the Common Core.

The ACT, Inc. says its college entrance exam, the ACT, is already aligned with the Common Core and is an active partner with the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

And not to be outdone, last month the College Board announced it will redesign the SAT. David Coleman, the (relatively) new CEO for College Board, said that both the SAT and the ACT had “become disconnected from the work of our high schools.”

David Coleman’s job before taking the helm at the College Board was as an architect of the Common Core State Standards. He focused on writing the English Language Arts standards.

Indiana has become the first state to drop the Common Core State Standards. Lawmakers there worried that their students might be at a disadvantage when it comes to taking the college entrance exams, and representatives from the two companies sought to reassure them.

“I think the big question is, ‘If Indiana decides to completely get away from Common Core — and any undesirably elements of Common Core — would that put Indiana students at a disadvantage when they take the college entrance exams SAT or ACT?’” Sen. Scott Schneider, R-Indianapolis, told StateImpact earlier this year. “I asked that question of both representatives, and both of them said as long as Indiana has college- and career-ready standards, then we would not be putting Indiana kids at a disadvantage.”

A story over at The Huffington Post features test prep expert Jed Applerouth’s review of the 208 page preview of the new SAT. He found that the new exam reflects the Common Core State Standards throughout and that it is essentially a 12th grade Common Core assessment:

Sensitive to the political controversy that has recently embroiled the CCSSI (with states like Indiana withdrawing from the standards altogether) the College Board writers explicitly mention the Common Core only once in the 208-page description of the redesigned SAT. But don’t be fooled; scratch ever so slightly beneath the surface of the new SAT, and you hit a Common Core gold mine.

The best example of how the SAT reflects the new Common Core standards can be found in the math section, per Applerouth:

Nowhere on the new SAT is the move towards Common Core alignment more profoundly evident than in the redesigned Math section. For example, take a look at the College Board’s language outlining the first two skills tested by the new “Heart of Algebra” category of questions:

  1. Create, solve, or interpret linear equations in one variable.
  2. Create, solve, or interpret linear inequalities in one variable.

Compare this language to that of the first Common Core standard in High School Algebra:

  1. Create equations and inequalities in one variable and use them to solve problems.

This minor rewording is indicative of just how deeply the new Math section is tied to the Common Core.

All of this begs the question: if North Carolina ditches the Common Core State Standards, will its students be adequately prepared for college entrance exams?

At a time when an increasing number of jobs in the state are expected to require some level of postsecondary training, North Carolina families and students have to shoulder more and more of the cost of a college education.

A report released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities highlights that state spending per student for higher education in North Carolina is 25 percent below pre-recession levels when adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, average tuition at North Carolina’s public, four-year colleges increased by more than 34 percent during this time period.

Some of the outcomes from these budget cuts have been well-documented on North Carolina’s campuses. For example, in the 2014 academic year, state funding cuts led NC State to eliminate 187 full-time equivalent positions and 27 positions from its library system, the report highlights. UNC-Chapel Hill has eliminated 493 positions, cut 16,000 course seats, increased class sizes, cut four of its seven centrally supported computer labs, and eliminated two distance education centers. Read More