by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Finally. The Republican conference budget proposal was finally released earlier today. I’m sure readers are aware of the infighting among Republican lawmakers regarding casino legislation and Medicaid expansion. There will be no casinos in this year’s budget bill, but it will include provisions about expanding the Medicaid program. Budget votes are scheduled for today and tomorrow.
A quick look through the bill finds some notable highlights for K-12 education:
Budget. The bill sets aside $11.5 billion in 2023-24 and $11.9 billion in 2024-25 for North Carolina public schools, marking the thirteenth consecutive year in which K-12 education budgets have increased.
Education Lottery. The bill allocates $931 million for North Carolina public schools in the first year and $935 million the second year, including $254 million the first year and $258 million the second year of the biennium — for the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund
Opportunity Scholarship. The conference budget removes income eligibility restrictions on the Opportunity Scholarship Program and funds additional expansion, which creates a program with near universal eligibility. It requires the State Education Assistance Authority and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to keep data on students moving from public to nonpublic education and the resulting cost differential to the state. The budget includes language stating that “[i]t is the intent of the legislature to reinvest any savings from the program in the public schools.”
Charter Schools. In an obvious response to the State Board of Education’s reaction to the legislation transferring the authority to authorize charters to the newly created Charter School Review Board, the proposed state budget limits the discretion of the State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction . Another provision allows charter schools to operate remotely.
Home School Students. A new provision allows home school students to take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Qualifying Test at their local school district.
Parents Bill of Rights. Under a new provision added to the State Budget public schools would be given until January 1, 2024 to comply with the requirements of Parents Bill of Rights legislation (SL 2023-106). State Superintendent Catherine Truitt had sought the extension for schools since passage of the bill in mid-August gave districts too little time to address what changes would need to be made.
There are other important provisions in the 625-page bill, including money to increase the supply of teachers, changes in teacher licensure, and more.
Take a look yourself through all 625 pages here.