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Public School Forum Leader: Senate Budget Proposal Comes Up Woefully Short

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by Mary Ann Wolf, NC Newsline

The State of North Carolina has money. In 2022, North Carolina had over $6 billion in unappropriated funds. This year, North Carolina is expected to have at least $3 billion more than budgeted in revenue.

This is a significant surplus. And yet, the budget speeding through the Senate this week — a proposal based solely on input from the Senate Republican supermajority — only gives teachers an average raise of 4.5%, over TWO years. But, for many teachers, it is much less than 4.5%. North Carolina already ranks 36th in the nation in average teacher pay – nearly $12,000 below the national average. And while neighboring states are passing their largest teacher raises in history, the Senate’s proposed “raise” will not even keep up with inflation. While educators struggle to pay their bills amid rising costs, North Carolina lawmakers are effectively turning their backs on them. Teachers will continue to leave the profession to teach in other states or work in other fields. Vacancy rates will continue to rise, and our students will shoulder the impact of the state’s unwillingness to invest in them.

As a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, we focus on facts. While nearly 70 legislators visited schools this week for Bring Your Legislator to School Day and witnessed the unbelievable work of educators and students, our Senate presented a budget that does the following:

Ignores the calls of parents and leaders in education, community, and business to fund a meaningful pay increase for educators. In this budget, a teacher with 17 years of experience would receive a $200/year raise, which is less than $20 per month.Allocates approximately $252 million over the biennium for teacher pay increases, compared to a staggering $279 million for private school vouchers.Disregards the calls from nearly every district in the state asking for calendar flexibility, instead recommending a complicated 30-hour high school remote flexibility program.Does not allocate additional funding for the NC Teaching Fellows Program or National Board Certified Teacher process and does not restore Master’s pay for teachers – all of which were included in the House budget proposal.

Not only does this budget proposal cut funding for our schools while allocating hundreds of millions for private school vouchers; it leaves out low-cost opportunities to strengthen the teaching profession and changes for students that have received bipartisan support. This wasted potential clearly demonstrates that this budget is all about politics – and not about people – and especially not about kids.

If this is not the North Carolina you want, contact your legislators. Remind them that we have the money, and that we DO want it invested in our public schools. The 1.5 million public school students in our state deserve it.

NC Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. NC Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Rob Schofield for questions: Follow NC Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.