Yesterday, North Carolina economists predicted an additional $6.5 billion in state revenue by 2023. This total amount doesn’t even include the money received from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan passed by Democrats in Congress.
These resources provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make transformational investments in the state and repair critical shortcomings. Therefore, it is no surprise that there are calls from Greensboro to Raleigh to use a portion of that money to support and strengthen North Carolina’s public schools.
Read more below.
News and Record: Our Opinion: Invest in our schools
- A recent poll commissioned by the N.C. Association of Educators finds bipartisan sentiment that the state does not adequately invest in its public schools. A majority of respondents, including 62% of Republicans, said they support increased funding for schools. What’s more, 77% of the parents who were polled favored increased school funding.
- Yet, even as state lawmakers sit on a $5 billion budget surplus and are rushing to slash corporate taxes, schools in North Carolina continue to go wanting, said the president of the N.C. Association of Educators.
- North Carolina spends 25% less per student than the national average and teacher salaries are $10,000 less than the national average – contributing to high attrition rates and loss of teacher assistants, reducing the ability to provide individual attention to students.
- “Lawmakers need to prioritize schools ahead of continued tax cuts for corporations,”said one educator. “They need to pass a responsible budget, not legislation that limits our ability to teach honestly to our diverse student populations.”
- That last sentence is a not-so-veiled reference to contentions in Raleigh, with little to no evidence that schools are “indoctrinating” students to be anti-patriotic.
- The NCAE’s appeals to lawmakers are as a reasonable as they are urgent, among them: Raise teacher salaries and increase pay for support staff. Invest in safer, better-equipped and more modern buildings. Hire more school nurses, counselors and psychologists.
- “They have dug a hole in North Carolina’s public education budget over the last 12 years, and they are not done with their shovel. When we adjust for inflation and enrollment … we are spending 56% less on classroom supplies than we did in 2009. The state of North Carolina is funding 7,700 fewer teaching assistants than we were in 2009. Math is still math, and we don’t get creative with our math like our lawmakers do,” said one educator.
- Public schools are “the great equalizer,” said another educator. They are the cornerstones of prosperous economies and safe, livable communities. They prepare workforces, help shape character of our youth, bring together diverse cultures and enrich local neighborhoods. Why in the world wouldn’t you provide them with the resources they need and deserve?
- The leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly are at a crossroads concerning the most significant issue that confronts the state – fulfilling the state Constitution’s pledge, the right, that every child must have access to a quality education.
- The legislature should, in the budget it sends to Gov. Roy Cooper, clearly commit to implementing the non-partisan, independent and professionally developed Comprehensive Remedial Plan that will bring quality education to all school children. It should fully-fund the first two years of the plan.
- If they don’t act, the governor will. Not only does the governor have the authority to direct funding to implement the order – but Superior Court Judge David Lee has the power to order Cooper to use his authority to get it done.
- Sixteen years ago amid a budget impasse in the legislature, former Gov. Mike Easley ordered his budget office to direct $75 million for low-wealth schools, at-risk students, teacher recruitment, high school reform and pre-kindergarten programs. Each item wasn’t simply in his budget – they were part of a May 24, 2005 report from Judge Howard Manning outlining action to fix the state’s lowest-performing schools.
- What should happen? The budget the legislature sends to the governor should include both funding for the next two years of the Comprehensive Remedial Plan for providing every child access to a quality education and a commitment to fully implement the plan over the next eight years.
- Other than obstruct and complain about the courts and other advocates actions and plans, legislative leaders have yet to articulate any comprehensive plan of their own. Judge Lee and the opposing sides in the Leandro case have worked in good faith. They have arrived at and presented an effective plan.
- Simply put, legislators need to support and adopt the plan or get out of the way.