Unpacking The NC Education Budget

Budget - North Carolina - NCGA - General Assembly - Education BudgetLast week, the NC General Assembly sent their budget to Governor Roy Cooper for his signature.  The Governor did not indicate if he would sign it or not at the time, but took issue with the details in the education budget.

On Monday, Cooper released a statement that he intends to veto the budget.

In his statement, Cooper repeated himself on tax cuts.

“Millionaires get a tax cut 85 times what a working family receives.”

In our previous budget article, this statement was demonstrated as patently false.

Lt. Governor Dan Forest created a video response to Cooper’s veto statement.

“We will override the governor’s veto and keep North Carolina on a path that will benefit all North Carolinian’s for years to come,  wrote Lt. Governor Forest in a brief statement.

Cooper Attacks School Choice – Again.

In Monday’s statement, Cooper reinforced his disdain for school choices again.  Cooper told quite a whopper about the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP).

“And finally, they should phase out the private school voucher program that drains money from public education to spend it in private schools with little accountability.”

First, they are Opportunity Scholarships, not vouchers.  Using the term voucher is inaccurate, it denotes any child can receive one at any time. The OSP has limited slots and specific criteria for applying.

The OSP is for low income students only and a large portion of them are minority students.   In terms of racial make-up of the applicants, minority students make up 57%, with white students coming in at 40%  and 3% listed as “other”.

Second, the OSP has its own separate funding  called the Opportunity Scholarship Reserve Fund and is not draining a dime from the public education budget.  This fund is disbursed by the NC State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA).

Third, Cooper’s assertion these schools have little accountability could be viewed as a direct insult to parents. Parents are the first and most important line of accountability for private schools.

The idea that parents would elect to send their kids to a bad school is laughable – unless of course they have no choice.

Perhaps the Governor is unaware that private schools are required by state law to administer standardized tests or an equivalent.  It’s even on the Department of Administration website, which one of Cooper’s new appointees, Machelle Sanders, now runs.

If these schools were failing these tests, their accreditation could be in jeopardy.

K-12 Education budget by the Numbers

The Governor’s misguided rhetoric aside, what is really in the Education budget? Here are some of the major numbers packed inside.

  • $9,046,403,622 and $9,425,109,426 for FY 2017-2018 and FY 2018-2019 respectively will go to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
  • $700 million increase over the previous year’s education budget.
  • $100 million added to the first year of the education budget for raising teacher pay.
  • $19 million in FY 2017-2018 and $10 million in FY 2018-2019 for ‘Business System Modernization’ of the DPI.
  • $11.285 million in textbooks and digital resources. Funds are non-recurring.
  • $8.2 million for  and $1 million in FY 2018-2019 for the ‘Advanced Teaching Role’ pilot.
  • $7.5 million for a “Birth to Three Council.”
  • $7 million in cuts to the Central Office for FY 2017-2018 and $11 million in FY 2018-2019.
  • $6,420,000 in recurring funds appropriated to DPI to “accelerate implementation of the State’s Digital Learning Plan, as set out in S.L. 2016-94.”  In FY 2017-2018, DPI must use $1,800,000.
  • $4.2 million in the budget for 2017-2018 for grants to help school districts expand Career and Technical Education (CTE) to 6th and 7th grade. $700,000 of those funds are recurring.
  • $2.42 million in recurring funding was added for the digital learning plan for both years of the budget.
  • $1 million for an audit of the Department of Public Instruction.
  • $700,000 in funding for a maximum of 10 positions which will report directly to the Superintendent (recurring).
  • $400,000 in 2017-18 and $800,000 in 2018-19 to DPI for “Coding and Mobile Application Development Grant Program.”
  • $300,000 in funding for Superintendent legal fees (non-recurring).
  • $200,000 for 2 positions within DPI to support teacher preparation.
  • $200,000 in FY 2017-18 for the Reading Improvement Commission which studies and makes recommendations on best practices for grades 4 through 12.

In addition to this list, a 1% recurring cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for retirees is included in the budget for all state employees. This would include retired teachers.

Education Budget specifics for Teacher Pay

Cooper also attacked the teacher pay raise of 9.6% over the two-year budget.

“For my signature, they should fully fund teacher pay raises including starting and veteran teachers  so that we can be on a path to reach at least the national average,” wrote Cooper in his statement.

Most teachers will see an increase in pay of 9.6% over the two-year budget. This is only a .4% difference than what Cooper himself proposed.

The breakdown of that 9.6% estimated average increase over the previous budget is 3.3% in FY 2017-18 and 9.6% in FY 2018-19.

Veteran Teacher, those with 25 or more years of experience, will receive bonuses of $385 in both 2017-18 and 2018-19.

These raises will be the fourth and fifth round of raises for educators. Teachers have received pay raises from the legislature in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

According to the NEA’s 2016 report estimated in 2014-15 that the average teacher salary was $57,420.

As of the raises in the 2016 budget, North Carolina is about $8,000 shy of that figure. The current budget will bring the state even closer.

The NEA’s 2016 report does not factor in cost of living into their averages.

The NEA report also does not adjust for the skewing of data by outlier states with large averages,  such as New York ($77,628), District of Columbia ($75,490), and Massachusetts ($75,398).

Principal pay will average around an 8.6% increase.  Vice Principal pay is tied to Principal pay and to the teacher pay schedule, with a approximately a 17% increase in the first year and a 19% increase in the second.

New Teachers Not Forgotten

Cooper also complained that starting teacher salaries were unchanged. That’s because the base pay for starting teachers has been increased nearly $5,000 in the last few years.

Starting teacher base pay was $30,430 in 2011 and now it is $35,000.  The current budget keeps starting teacher pay at $35,000.

The budget includes a provision for highly-qualified new teachers to start at a higher pay grade on the salary schedule. This provision is aimed at teachers who accept positions in low-performing schools or are licensed in special education or teach STEM classes.

Teachers deemed as ‘highly qualified graduates’ who attend an approved educator preparation program will be eligible for local salary supplements based on the teacher “A” salary schedule.

Teacher Bonuses

Bonuses are available via a pilot program in the areas of 3rd grade reading, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB) and Career and Technical Education.

Funding is included for a ‘math performance bonus program’ in grades 4 through 8.

In addition to the math bonus program, a reading bonus program is also available for teachers in grades 4 and 5.

The program previously known as the third grade reading bonus will now be named the Read To Achieve teacher performance pilot bonus program. This program is funded at $5,000,000.

The newly renamed Read to Achieve bonus requires teachers be in the top 25% of teachers in the State or top 25% of teachers in the teacher’s respective local school administrative unit according to the EVAAS student growth index score.

Principals will receive bonuses between $1,000 and $5,000 if they are in a schools that falls in the top 50% or higher in growth.

The Good

$1 million in funding for a business process audit of DPI (non-recurring).

Starting in FY 2018-2019, DPI’s operating budget is reduced by $1 million per year.

DPI’s operating funds will decrease by $3.2 million in 2017-18 and $7.3 million in 2018-19.

Funding for the new NC Teaching Fellows Program.
The Opportunity Scholarship Program will receive $44.8 million for 10,700 scholarships during the 2018-2019.  During the FY 2019-2020, it will receive $54.8 million for 13,100 scholarships.

Funds CTE expansion programs for 6th and 7th grade. Districts are required to have at least two offerings.

The Bad

Protects the Read to Achieve.  Read to Achieve has mixed or inconclusive results thus far. The structure has also had to be changed in order to make it workable.

Despite studies showing that pre-K has, “no statistically measurable effect,” the education budget adds thousands of slots to the pre-K Program.

The budget also creates a, “B-3 Inter-agency Council.” The B-3 stands for birth-to-three.

The council is funded at $250,00 a year for 2 years through 2018-19, but has a $7.5 million appropriation.

See page 32 of the Joint Conference report:

“Provides funds, and 2 positions, to support the newly created B-3 Inter-Agency Council to focus on the developmental and educational needs of children from birth to age 8. The revised net appropriation for fund code 1400 is $7.5 million in each year of the biennium.”


Parents concerned about data privacy should be wary of the purpose of this B-3 Council.

“An early childhood information system that facilitates and encourages the sharing of data between and among early childhood service providers and State agencies.”

What state agencies? Which providers? Will parents be able to opt out?

A number of schools will be allowed to exceed class size requirements in K-3 for duration of pilot program ending in 2019-20.

The budget also protects Teach For America (TFA). Why is that bad?

TFA teachers have the highest turnover rate of any subgroup in the teaching profession in the state, at 32.74%.

TFA arguably should be axed and the millions spent on it given to the new NC Teaching Fellows program. [Related: Teach For America Now Pushing Social Justice in Math]

Other Education Budget Items and Provisions

Increase in the amount of North Carolina Education Lottery net lottery revenue from 16.9% (FY 2016”‘2017) to 40% of net lottery revenue collected. This will be done no later than the FY 2028”‘2029.

Funding for children with disabilities increased to 12.75%.

Charter Schools may see transportation reimbursements under a new grant pilot program.

The transportation reimbursement may be of up to 65% of the eligible student transportation costs.  At least 50% or more of the school’s students must be receiving free or reduced lunch.

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