Comprising almost 40 percent of North Carolina’s $23.9 billion-dollar state budget, K-12 education is the single biggest item in the state budget. Educating young people is a serious and expensive responsibility. The North Carolina House of Representatives approved on a party line vote, the 2019-20 state budget on May 3 (HB-966). How does the House budget impact K-12 education in North Carolina? Let’s review the highlights.
Budget adds $367.7 million in new spending in 2019-20 and a net increase of $484 million in the second year. Under the House budget K-12 education receives $9.954 billion in 2019, that’s up from $9.586 billion in 2018. The 2020-21 K-12 education budget increases to $10.438 billion, an increase of 484 million.
The House budget increases K-12 funding 3.8 percent over the previous year. Still, the budget is $200 million less than the $10.154 billion Gov. Roy Cooper was recommending for the K-12 budget.
So where does all the money go?
Aside from helping fund day-to-day operations, much of the money is targeted for salary increases, increases in benefits, safety grants and other items like textbooks and supplies.
Salary Increases & Bonuses
- Teachers will receive an average 4.6 percent raise (includes the step increase). Increases range from $500 to $8,500.
- Budget reinstates pay differential for master’s degrees (10 percent); advanced degrees ($126) and doctorate pay ($253).
- Recommends a proposed base pay schedule for principals based on experience and tied to the teacher schedule.
- Provides 10 percent average pay raise (includes step increase – the next higher level pay grade) for principals. Adds additional component to principal pay based on size of school and growth ($2,000 to $18,000).
- Authorizes pay increases of 1 percent or $500 whichever is greater to non-certified and central office personnel.
- Provides signing bonuses for teachers in small counties. Requires a local match of up to $2,0000 by the state.
- Raises the percentage paid for teacher retirement from 18.86 percent of total salaries in 2018 to 19.66 percent, an increase of 4.2 percent.
- Increases the cost of employee health insurance from $6,104 per employee (2018) to $6,262 per employee in 2019.
- Adds an additional $15 million to instructional supplies budget (total budget of $62.5 million).
- Creates classroom supply program that provides $145 for each teacher to use for classroom supplies.
School Safety Grants
- Provides $19 million in school mental health grants. Twenty-five percent of grant required to employ school psychologists.
- Provides an additional $3 million each in funding for school resource officers; school safety employment grants and school safety training.
- Provides $2 million for students in crisis grant and $500,000 for
cybersecurity and risk management.
- Authorizes an additional $700,000 to accelerate the implementation of the state’s Digital Learning Plan and $500,00) to NCCAT (North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching) to expand the NC Teacher Cadet program.
- Requires students to take a full credit course on economic and personal finance for high school graduation.
- Provides $1 million for three-year pilot program for virtual early learning for at-risk preschool children.
- Requires schools to use 15-point scale when calculating school report cards. Also requires achievement scores to account for 51 percent of score and growth scores to account for 49 percent. The current division is 80 achievement; 20 percent growth).
- Authorizes $500,000 for five-year pilot program to allow students in all grades to advance to higher levels of math based on mastery of concepts and skills rather than just completing course credit.
- Increases appropriation for the North Carolina Governors School by $800,000. Total funding is now $1.6 million.
- Provides $14 million in additional funding for school buses to address projected fuel increase.
- Adds $10 million for textbook and digital resources. Brings total appropriation to $73.3 million.
- Adds $15 million to Instructional Supplies Budget. Total budget now $62.5 million.
- Changes how instructional materials are selected. Requires LEAs to select and adopt instructional materials and have procedures for selection. No longer a responsibility of the state Textbook Commission.
- Requires LEAs to publish on LEA web site the names and titles of all materials purchased, establish a local community advisory committee to investigate challenges from parents or teachers regarding unfit materials.
- Requires schools to notify parents of students in health and safety programs of the entire curriculum and materials used and to allow parents to opt out of the program if they so choose.
- Provides $12 million for K-12 Business System Modernization.
- Includes provision that prevents LEAs from changing school calendars once adopted except for certain conditions.
- Also modifies personal leave policy for teachers. No leave requests will be approved on any day when students are scheduled to be in regular attendance, unless a substitute is available for that day.
- Approved five-year pilot program in competency-based math that would allow students to advance to higher levels of math based on mastery of concepts rather than simply completing course material.
- $1 million for the State Board of Education to evaluate state’s system of funding public schools and propose improvements or alternatives.
The Budget and School Choice
The House budget impacts several school choice programs. The House budget keeps in place funding for the Opportunity Scholarship Program, a program that provides vouchers of up to $4,200 for eligible students to attend the school of their choice. Gov. Cooper had recommended ending the popular program in each of his last two budgets.
However the bill budget also develops rules for the use of unexpended funds for the Opportunity Scholarship Program and expands eligibility for the OSP program to certain nonpublic school students. HB 966 combines the Special Needs Grant and Personal Education Savings Account program into one program and creates a nonpublic school information dashboard to share financial and academic information about students whose tuition is paid fully or in part by the state.
Is this a good education budget?
Republicans succeeded in holding the line on spending in several areas. However, there are areas of concern. Once again Republicans failed to create a strong link between teacher pay and academic result by continuing the teacher salary schedule.
Conservatives have talked frequently about moving power from Raleigh and giving districts and parents more responsibility over how children are educated. North Carolina’s highly centralized educational system needs to be revamped if local districts are ever to exercise true ownership of their schools. Budget provisions to give LEAs more flexibility over budgets and to give parents greater input over the selection of instructional materials are steps in the right direction.
The Senate is reviewing the full House budget and is expected to vote on its version in the next few weeks.