by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Republican leaders in the N.C. Senate released their budget proposal on Tuesday. The two-year plan would invest in school safety initiatives, allow teachers to make decisions about school supply purchases, and of course, raise teacher salaries.
The budget funds a variety of grants designed to ensure the safety of students and educators. Students in Crisis Grants and School Safety Training Grants would each receive $4.5 million in 2019-20. These grant programs would enable school districts to contract with community partners to assist students. Another $6.1 million would be set aside for School Safety Equipment Grants. Additionally, the Senate budget includes $10 million in recurring funding for School Mental Health Support Personnel Grants and additional funding to hire an additional 100 school psychologist positions, bringing the total appropriation for school psychologists to $35.4 million in each year of the biennium.
Budget writers also boosted funding for school resources officers. All told, $19.7 million would be available in 2019-20, and $18 million would be available in 2020-21. Lawmakers would also require that the Center for Safer Schools at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction conduct an annual census of school resources officers. The report would include education levels, work assignments, law enforcement affiliation, and other data on school resource officers in the state.
The budget would require each school district to transfer $300 per eligible classroom teacher to an electronic account that would allow them to purchase classroom supplies and materials. Teachers would not be allowed to purchase computer hardware or software, and administrators may not direct how teachers spend the funds. ClassWallet, the vendor that oversees the Personal Education Savings Account program, would be responsible for tracking and documenting teacher transactions. The House budget contained a similar provision, but it limited the amount to $145 per teacher.
Finally, the budget would award a modest 3.5 percent increase and experienced-based bonuses to teachers over the next two years. I suspect that teacher unrest played a role in their unwillingness to match the House’s 4.6 percent proposed increase.