After nearly eight months of lengthy and heated discussion, Republican leaders in the North Carolina Senate and House have come to a consensus on a $21.7 billion state budget for the next two years. Since education comprises the single biggest item in the state budget, there is a lot of interest in the education budget and the changes lawmakers made.
Major highlights include:
Overall funding levels:
Lawmakers add $530 million to the overall Education budget (public education, UNC System and Community Colleges) over base budget. Will spend $12.3 billion on public education in the coming year.
- Public Schools: $8.52 B (+$415 million over last year)
- UNC System: $2.75 B (+ $121 million over last year)
- Colleges: $1.07 B (+$29 million over last year)
- Opportunity Scholarship Program: Provides $6.8 million in additional funds for Opportunity Scholarship Program in 2015-16 and $14 million in 2016-17. (Note: this is included in the UNC section of the budget bill)
- Teacher Pay: Provides additional funds to raise starting teacher pay from $33,000 to $35,000.
- Bonus: Provides one-time $750 bonus for all other teachers, administrators and LEA personnel.
- Enrollment Growth: Provide $100 million to help educate 17,000 new students.
- Teacher Assistants: Will fund Teacher Assistants at 2014-15 level, mandates that LEA’s use TA funding for TAs.
- Reduce Class Size: Provides additional funding to decrease teacher student ratio by one student in grade one.
- Textbooks and Media: $52 million provided to Increase general fund support for textbooks and digital resources.
- School Connectivity: $12 million in new funds to increase School connectivity.
- Driver Training: $24 million in nonrecurring taxpayer funds to fund the Driver Training program in public schools for this year. Next year funding will come from civil fines and forfeitures.
- School Transportation: Reduces school transportation budget by $25 million to reflect lower projected cost of diesel fuel.
- NC Dept. of Public Instruction: Reduces state general support for the Department of Public Instruction by $2.5 million (5.2 percent). $45.3 million will remain in DPI budget for operations.
- One Time Bonus: $750 one-time bonus to all State funded community college employees.
- Tuition: Beginning September 2016, tuition will increase from $72 to $76 per credit hour for residents and from $264 to 268 for non-residents. Tuition for resident students will increase by a maximum of $128 per year, from $2,304 t5o $2,432.
- Enrollment Adjustment: $6.4 million decline in Enrollment Adjustment to reflect the decline in community college enrollment.
- Bonus: One time $750 bonus for all UNC employees.
- Enrollment Growth: $49 million to help fund 3,300 new students in UNC System.
- Special Needs Scholarship: Increases funding $250, 000 in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
- Student Aid: Provide $1 million in additional funds for NC Need Based Scholarships.
- Management Reduction: Requires UNC to provide $ 18 million in management reductions this year and $43 million next year.