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A quick look at the education budget

EdbudgetReaders should anticipate a more in-depth look at the education portion of the budget this week from NC Policy Watch; if you’re tired of scouring Twitter for the details, then here’s a snapshot with some of the most notable points.

School vouchers: ‘Opportunity Scholarships’ to begin in year two of the budget, or for the 2014-15 academic year. $10 million set aside for $4,200 vouchers for students to use at private schools. Household income for those students cannot exceed 133% of the federal poverty level, at least for the first year.

Lawmakers will also decide this week on a separate bill that would give students with disabilities $3,000 per semester to use for private schooling.

Teacher tenure: teachers would become temporary employees with this budget. Instead of having ‘career status’, also known as tenure, teachers will have contracts that can be renewed based on performance measures.

Teacher pay: no raises for teachers, who have only seen a 1% pay increase in the past five years. Supplemental pay for teachers who have master’s degrees is gone, with the exception of those whose jobs require advanced degrees. A scheme for merit pay is included, with highly performing teachers getting bonuses in the second year.

Pink slips? Funding for teaching assistants was reduced by 21%. That cut will affect teachers, too, since many local districts also use that pot of money to fund their positions. And as we lose teachers, the cap on class sizes is lifted – so even more crowded classrooms to look forward to.

Pre-K: eligibility guidelines were not changed with this budget, and 2,500 slots were added. But since 5,000 slots are expiring this month, all this does is reduce the loss of pre-K slots by 2,500.

Charter schools: Language is included in the budget that calls for the State Board of Education to study virtual charter schools, including application requirements, enrollment growth and funding allocations.

The House budget proposal that included a half million dollars for PEFNC to develop charter schools in rural areas appears to have not moved forward.

Teaching fellows: The budget includes $12 million over the two year period for Teach for America, while the NC Teaching Fellows program is phased out.

Higher education: tuition will go up by 12.3 percent at UNC schools and community college students will also see increased fees.

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