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Voices of concern are growing louder as more and more individuals and institutions directly impacted by the new state budget signed by Gov. McCrory yesterday come to grasp what is actually in the 260 page document. As reported in the post immediately below and in this story by Sarah Ovaska on Wednesday, the list of changes buried in the fine print is long and full of significant policy decisions.

And as this story in today’s Charlotte Observer details, one of the most important and worrisome changes involves how the state funds public education:

A provision of the state budget that changes how schools are funded will put Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools at a disadvantage in recruiting talented teachers and make planning much more difficult, Superintendent Heath Morrison said.

As part of the budget signed by Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday, the state legislature will no longer automatically fund growth in public school enrollment. Districts had long used that assumption to plan their staffing ahead of the North Carolina budget debate each summer. Now, they will have to wait until after the legislature adjourns, or later, to learn how much money they’ll receive.

“We view it as a very radical change,” Morrison said Thursday.

Charlotte-Meck isn’t the only system worried. This is from Sarah Ovaska’s story: Read More

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This morning’s edition of Setting the record straight over on the main Policy Watch website has some rare praise for the surprisingly progressive rhetoric emanating from state budget negotiations this week. But it also takes lawmakers to task for their failure to seize upon the most obvious solution to their inability to find a way to fund the essential services (i.e. teachers and health care) that they have prioritized. The best answer to the General Assembly’s budget dilemma, of course, is to halt next January’s scheduled tax cut that will primarily benefit the rich:

“According to the best and most recent estimates, the 2013 tax cuts – which overwhelmingly favor the state’s most wealthy taxpayers – are costing the state more than $500 million in foregone revenue in the fiscal year that began last week. Add to this the fact that the cuts have caused a downward revision of revenue projections by another $190 million and the gap may well balloon to more than $700 million.

Even if lawmakers left these cuts in place, however, and merely stopped the implementation of a yet another round of tax cuts scheduled to take effect next January, the state would still realize $300 million in additional revenue in calendar year 2015 – more than enough to make a significant dent in the education shortfall and solve innumerable problems in the current negotiations.”

Meanwhile, this morning’s lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer has another quick fix proposal — at least on teacher pay: Read More

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In case you missed it over the weekend, the Wilmington StarNews had another good editorial concerning the efforts of some of the state’s public charter schools to keep the salaries they pay secret and en effort by lawmakers to approve of the secrecy.

“The public has a right to know who works for its government agencies and institutions, how much they are paid and other important details of their employment. North Carolina’s General Statutes make that clear.

But after news organizations including the StarNews sought salary information for charter schools, a Charlotte-area state representative introduced an amendment that allows charter schools to redact the names of employees from salary lists. The House foolishly passed the amendment on Thursday; the Senate should opt for full disclosure.

At best, this amendment sets a bad precedent by shielding some public employees from full disclosure when others – including teachers in the state’s traditional public schools – do not enjoy that same protection. At worst, the amendment could go a long way toward confirming what charter school critics have been saying all along: that these schools are effectively private schools paid for with taxpayers’ money.”

The editorial goes on to provide more updates on the efforts of a charter school chain in the Wilmington area run by right-wing funder and activist Baker Mitchell

Read More

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The House plan to fund teacher raises with increased lottery revenues continues to meet with widespread derision. ICYMI, the Greensboro News & Record weighed in over the weekend:

“When it comes to raising teacher pay, the state House has almost trumped the Senate for bad ideas.

The Senate offers 11 percent salary hikes, on average, but only for teachers who surrender tenure rights. And about half of the money comes from laying off thousands of teacher assistants.

The House provides 5 percent raises with no strings attached and without eliminating teacher assistants. Unfortunately, to pay for it, the House bets that the state lottery can pull in an additional $106 million next year. To make that happen, it authorizes the Lottery Commission to double its spending on advertising.

What a lesson for our children.

The trouble is, the lottery appeals most strongly to people who can least afford to pay. Furthermore, it provides an unreliable revenue stream. When North Carolina’s participation in a state lottery was debated in 2005, opponents used both arguments. And nearly all Republicans in the legislature voted against it. But Democrats were in the majority then, and they enacted the lottery.

Now, not only do Republican House leaders aim to rely on lottery revenue to fund an ongoing obligation — teacher salaries — they want to drum up more of it….”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.

 

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Raleigh’s News & Observer joins the growing list of voices to condemn the state House’s decision to attempt squeeze more money out of the vulnerable by increasing lottery advertising efforts to raise teacher pay:

“What’s next for Republican leaders of the state House? It’s a tantalizing question because their ideas, or perhaps that should be notions, about what to do to raise teacher pay are truly strange.

Sorry, but it’s hard to take seriously the House’s pay hike plan for teachers. The House’s proposed budget would give teachers about 5 percent more by boosting advertising for the state lottery. The idea is that more advertising will lure more people into the games, and their losses will become the teachers’ gain.

How is Speaker Thom Tillis going to address other revenue shortfalls? A rabbit out of the hat maybe? Or perhaps he’ll charge for a traveling stage show wherein he saws Gov. Pat McCrory in half.

A good many Republicans and Democrats seemed to be doing a double-take when it came out that the lower chamber’s budget figured to bump lottery advertising to 2 percent of sales instead of 1 percent. With more marketing, officials figure, the lottery would bring in substantially more money. The last fiscal year figure for net proceeds was about $480 million.”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.