All North Carolina students deserve a high quality education, no matter where they reside in the state. Ensuring access to a high quality education means not only adequately compensating educators, but also making sure our schools have the resources and support needed to educate the more than 1.5 million students in public classrooms.
The Senate’s proposed budget for public schools for fiscal year 2018 falls well short of promoting this shared value. State support for public schools under the proposed budget would stay around 2008 pre-recession levels, despite an additional 81,000 students in classrooms today. Here are some takeaways from the Senate’s proposed budget for public schools.
- The major big-ticket new spending item is for pay increases, which is meant to address the fact that average teacher pay remains in the bottom half of states, even after accounting for teacher pay increases provided in recent years. Lawmakers use lottery dollars, rather than General Fund dollars, to pay for school-based administrators pay increases.
- The budget includes less in actual new spending for public schools than what meets the eye. For example, there appears to be $11.1 million in additional state funding for textbooks and digital material, but $10 million of that represents one-time funds provided to schools last year that remains in the budget. Only $1.1 million are new dollars, and these are one-time dollars. That means that the textbook funding included in the Senate’s proposed is really just keeping funding at last year’s level. Under the Senate’s proposed budget, state funding for textbooks would be 77 percent below peak 2010 level.
- The Senate’s proposed budget continues to forego boosting investments in the classroom. State funding for classroom materials and instructional supplies, for example, is less than half its peak 2010 investment level. Furthermore, no additional state funding is provided for schools to meet state-mandated class size reduction requirements – creating an unfunded mandate that passes the buck down to local communities.
Ensuring that all students receive a high quality education in North Carolina is becoming more of a challenge. Lawmakers’ appetite for more and more tax cuts means less revenue is available for public schools and other public investments that contribute to a high quality education. The Senate’s tax plan includes more tax cuts that largely benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations, and it will reduce available revenue by $323.7 million for fiscal year 2018. This is what underinvesting in public education looks like – tax cuts that favor the few over investments that would benefit 1.5 million students.