Gov. Pat McCrory unveiled a $21 billion state budget proposal last week that will face no shortage of critics.
While proposing modest pay raises for public school teachers and state employees, the governor’s plan does little to provide the state’s schools with the resources they need to provide a quality education for North Carolina students.
McCrory does propose to spend $23.2 million in lottery funds to double funding for textbooks to partially restore draconian cuts in previous years. But the governor proposes no funding to rehire teachers’ assistants, restore money for classroom supplies or support services for teachers and students.
The spending recommendations seek $44 million in cuts to the University of North Carolina system and a 50-cents per credit hour tuition increase at community colleges. The plan also calls for local school districts to pay for workers’ compensation claims and lawsuit liability claims that could add up to at least $10 million the districts will not have to spend on teacher supplements, maintenance or other needs.
While the governor’s intention to increase teachers’ salaries is laudable, it is a one-time effort that will do little to correct the long-term problem of substandard teacher pay that is sending good North Carolina teachers to other states or driving them out of the education system entirely.
McCrory’s spending proposal faces an uncertain fate in the N.C. General Assembly, where lawmakers will use his plan as a starting point to craft their own budget plan, which is certain to contain less funding for the state’s crucial needs in education – not to mention infrastructure, public health and environmental protection.
With the state facing budget shortfalls in the current and upcoming fiscal years and another round of previously enacted tax cuts set to kick in, lawmakers are all but certain to provide public schools with lower funding levels than McCrory has proposed. Local school districts have been cash-strapped for years and are likely to continue to be for the foreseeable future.