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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Chances are schools across North Carolina will continue to rely on outdated textbooks and limited resources for classroom supplies for the upcoming school year.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Inadequate state funding for textbooks means the continued use of outdated textbooks, and in some cases schools have resorted to making photocopies from textbooks to ensure that students have learning materials.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.

Durham Public Schools (DPS) is expected to adopt a breakfast program at no cost to students and families, a recent Herald Sun articles reports. Under the program, all DPS students could eat breakfast at school at no cost, regardless of their family’s financial status.

In order to combat the stigma associated with receiving free or reduced breakfast, DPS plans to use a catchy slogan, “Breakfast is on us.”

By eliminating the stigma associated with the existing free and reduced meal programs offered only to students from low- and moderate-income families, students are more likely to participate in school meal programs, which can have a positive impact on their ability to succeed academically. The Herald Sun article notes that national data show that school districts that provide universal breakfast programs at no cost to students have higher test scores, fewer disciplinary problems and more focused students.

Many schools across North Carolina have the option to offer breakfast and lunch programs at no cost to students and families this upcoming school year. Nearly 300,000 students in high-poverty schools across North Carolina could potentially benefit from an initiative, known as Community Eligibility, which ensures every child in these schools receives two nutritious meals each day so that they are ready to learn all day. Read More

This morning’s Charlotte Observer has an excellent editorial on Judge Robert Hobgood’s recent decision that at least partially strikes down the counter-productive law passed last year that would end teacher career status:

“Last week we urged lawmakers to ditch this law during their short session that’s under way. We repeat that today. Time and tax dollars are being wasted in litigation.

If the past is an indicator, lawmakers are likely to appeal, as they’ve done with other court rulings on controversial laws they passed last year. But it is wrong to string this matter out with more legal action. The law was a wrongheaded move – and an unnecessary one.

Proponents contended that the new law, set to go into effect in 2018, was needed to ensure that bad teachers could be removed from the classroom. They argued that the current system protected poor performers.

Hogwash. Bad teachers could be fired before this law. The current system, in place since 1971, only guaranteed educators a hearing.

Hobgood’s ruling now reiterates that fact.

Unfortunately, this injunction applies only to teachers who already have career status. Teachers without such status – which is granted to those who made it beyond the first four years of a probationary period – are not covered.

Lawmakers should give up this fight. But if they won’t, they should suspend the process for teachers not covered by this injunction until litigation is done.

A two-tiered system where some teachers have hearing rights that others do not would compound the bad legislative decision a judge has now rightly upended.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

It’s not a new argument from North Carolina conservatives; we’ve been hearing from the so-called “free market think tanks” for years. Still it was a bit of an eye opener to read the following letter from State Senator Warren Daniel to a North Carolinian who expressed concerns about the state’s abysmal teacher salaries (as first posted at the site Pay Our Teachers First):

“Ms. Greene,

Do teachers teach because they love teaching, & they love children, or
because they are paid at some national average? Are you considering that
in addition to the State salary, teachers also make approximately 14
thousand dollars in taxpayer paid benefits, and most counties have salary
supplements? In addition, compared to similarly situated state
employees, a teacher’s work year is approximately two months shorter.
While a department of corrections employee or a highway patrolman may
have to work on Christmas and Thanksgiving, teachers receive vacations
for every major holiday and are with their families. Read More

Common coreYet another prominent voice has weighed in against the move advanced by some conservatives in the General Assembly to abandon North Carolina’s adoption of the Common Core education standards for math and English (an issue we explored in some depth yesterday). This is from this morning’s Fayetteville Observer:

“Those with fringe views invariably claim they represent many similar-minded folks, but such support can be measured more in volume than numbers.

Unfortunately, some of those with an extreme education agenda have won seats in our General Assembly and are pushing to erode the Common Core curriculum standards that educators worked so hard to put in place…. Read More