There has been much talk from lawmakers about the need to spare North Carolina public schools from large budget cuts and protect teachers’ jobs. While much disdain is generally expressed when there is a reduction in state funding levels, what frequently is left out of the discussion are the millions of federal dollars North Carolina public schools will receive as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly known as the federal stimulus plan. An additional $380 million in federal stabilization funds will increase actual general fund spending for public education to $7.8 billion.
Despite high volume rhetoric about massive budget cuts, the FY2009-10 North Carolina state budget for public education (K-12, UNC and community colleges) reduces total spending for all public education by only about 1 percent over last year’s actual expenditure levels. State spending for all public education is reduced from $11.8 to $11.1 billion. However the addition of $517 million in federal stimulus funds for K-12 and higher education offsets state budget reductions and actually increases total spending to approximately $11.7 billion.
In order to address the state’s growing budget deficit, Governor Beverly Perdue has called on state agencies to reduce spending and develop new ways to stretch tax dollars. At the same time Perdue, a former teacher, has come out against any further education cuts. The Governor has also stated her opposition to any budget proposals that will “cripple the classroom” including provisions to increase class size, reduce teacher pay or layoff teachers.
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One of the most significant budget battles taking place in the General Assembly this year involves K-12 education. This year most of the budget discussion revolves around how to manage next year’s education budget shortfall, which is currently hovering around $930 million.
Several weeks ago I received an eight-page insert to my local paper detailing the online degree programs at East Carolina University. The insert proudly proclaimed: “With more than 60 degree and certificate programs in health, education, technology, business and other areas, East Carolina University has the largest network of distance education students in the state.” What caught my eye however was the small print on the bottom left corner of the outside fold. It read: “1,670,292 copies of this public document were printed at a cost of $86,292 or 5¢ per copy.”
It seems North Carolina’s High School Graduation Project (HSGP) doesn’t have many friends. In early April, the North Carolina State Board of Education delayed, by one year, the HSGP requirement. Last week, the House Education Committee approved a bill (HB 223) sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Love (D-Harnett) that delays HSGP until 2011. The bill also requests the legislative program and evaluation unit study the project.
UNC President Erskine Bowles says Gov. Bev Perdue’s recommended $165 million in budget cuts will be a bitter pill for the state’s public colleges and universities to swallow. While the cuts to the UNC System’s $2.5 billion budget are significant, they aren’t deadly. The impact of the cuts can be softened by additional savings gathered from a thorough review of existing programs and policies.
Public education fares better than any other agency. Perdue actually increases spending by 2.5 percent (this is overall spending including the spending of receipts). Money from state funds and federal stimulus package will increase funding $350 million across all education levels. Per student state support for K-12 education will increase from $5,597 to $5,736.
Gov. Perdue recently named Dr. Bill Harrison, superintendent of the Cumberland County Schools (CCS), to what the new Governor calls “the most important job in North Carolina.” In his new position as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the North Carolina Public Schools, Harrison will manage staff at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and guide education policy for the North Carolina State Board of Education. The new position is intended to provide clear lines of responsibility and improve a policymaking process currently bogged down in uncertainty and bureaucracy.
Gov. Beverly Perdue recently named Bill Harrison, superintendent of the Cumberland County Schools, to what the new governor calls "the most important job in North Carolina." In his new position as chief operating officer of the state's public schools, Harrison will manage staff at the Department of Public Instruction and guide policy for the State Board of Education. The new position is intended to provide clear lines of responsibility and to improve a policymaking process currently bogged down in uncertainty and bureaucracy.
Among the biggest challenges Gov. Perdue faces is improving North Carolina’s education system. Lowering North Carolina’s dropout rate will be one of the new Governor’s top education priorities. Currently, almost 30 percent of students who enter high school fail to graduate four years later. In 2006-07, over 23,500 students dropped out of North Carolina’s public schools.
Improving public education in North Carolina is a topic that usually generates more heat than light. One of the reasons is that much of the discussion is dominated by long-held myths about public education.
The 2007-2008 legislative sessions were marked by strong but uneven growth in appropriations for the University of North Carolina (UNC) and North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS). NCCCS moved forward with a controversial directive – which it later reversed, and is currently again reviewing – to admit illegal immigrants. The Legislature continued to finance UNC construction projects through authorization of record amounts of non-voter approved certificates of participation (COPs). Major legislation impacting higher education includes:
Improving K-12 public education was one of lawmakers’ top priorities for the 2007-2008 legislative sessions. In spite of boosting education appropriations, expanding selected programs and providing more incentives for teachers, the Legislature failed to effectively address a host of pressing challenges or move forward on a variety of education reform measures that enjoyed widespread public support.