North Carolina lawmakers were told nearly three years ago that the state’s school infrastructure needs had reached a staggering $8 billion or more.
Yet efforts to put a statewide school bond referendum on the ballot were stymied by North Carolina lawmakers in recent years.
Today’s news might mean, however, that the proposal may finally have some momentum in the legislature.
State House Speaker Tim Moore announced that he would file a bill to put a $1.9 billion public school bond on the ballot, addressing at least a portion of the state’s capital needs.
According to Moore’s release, $1.3 billion would go to K-12 construction needs, $300 million to the UNC system, and $300 million to North Carolina’s community colleges.
“Education is what matters most to families and businesses — to the private and public sectors alike — and North Carolina is poised to build on historic commitments to our schools with another long-term investment in capital construction for our rapidly growing student population,” Moore said in the release.
“Our state’s explosive growth over the past decade brings opportunities and challenges for our school systems. The state General Assembly must continue to meet those needs with investments in our future.”
It’s worth mentioning that while Moore refers to “another” investment in our student population, this would mark the first statewide K-12 bond since 1996.
Lawmakers did authorize and voters approved a $2 billion bond in 2016 to fund STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) facilities on UNC campuses, but the state’s K-12 schools have long bemoaned the state of crumbling facilities in some of North Carolina’s poorer regions.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson also announced his support for the bond in Moore’s release Thursday, which came hours after GOP lawmakers choose Moore for his third term as state House speaker.
State officials told legislators nearly three years ago that the school construction tab was expected to balloon to $13 billion by 2026, and that’s before a controversial elementary class size cap may have exacerbated the problem for local districts.
No word yet on whether the bill has backing in the state Senate, which has been considerably more problematic for public school advocates in recent years.
Moore said in his release that the bill should be approved in the 2019 legislative session and be placed on the ballot in 2020.