Today’s Under the Dome paints a gloomy picture for North Carolina’s public education budget:
It’s time to start thinking about next year’s public schools budget, said Philip Price, chief financial officer at the state education agency.
And it looks like that means talking about more cuts.
Next year’s budget already has $1 billion in school cuts the legislature approved last year, Price said, and the state budget office has asked for proposals on how to shave off more.
As most Civitas Review readers should know by now, when politicians and bureaucrats talk about “cuts” to their budget, it has a completely different meaning than what most people understand to be a budget “cut.”
In this case, is NC’s public education system really facing $1 billion in cuts? Not exactly.
Here’s what they really mean:
- The “continuation budget” for 2010-11 calls for $8.4 billion in K-12 spending for FY 2010-11. The continuation budget, however, is basically an estimate on what the K-12 system would spend if it maintained current spending levels, adjusted for inflationary measures and enrollment growth. In other words, the continuation budget is what would be spent if nothing was cut, or more appropriately; what the legislators wanted to spend on K-12 for FY 2010-11.
- Instead of the $8.4 billion that legislators wanted to spend on K-12 for 2010-11, the biennial budget crafted this past summer outlined a spending plan of $7.4 billion for K-12. Thus the reported “$1 billion in school cuts the legislature approved last year.”
In effect, bureaucrats are once again claiming a budget cut when in fact it is merely a difference between what they wanted to spend and what they will actually have available to spend.
A look at the actual numbers will paint perhaps a less gloomy budgetary picture.
- FY 2008-09 actual spending on K-12 was $8.1 billion (down from a budgeted $8.37 B)
- FY 2009-10 budgeted spending is $7.5 billion, plus $380 million in federal stimulus dollars, for a total of $7.88 B.
- Budgeted spending for FY 2010-11 is $7.36 billion, plus $373 million, for a total of $7.73 B.
- So actual K-12 spending for 2010-11 is budgeted at $150 million below 2009-10 spending. A far cry from the reported $1 billion in cuts.
Granted, the $7.73 B is close to $400 million less than actual expenditure for FY 2008-09, but again nowhere near $1billion in cuts.