The American Rescue Plan Act's $130 billion for K-12 education included $3.6 billion for North Carolina public schools, but strangely for an emergency, only 5 percent of that education spending will be spent this year. It's clear that this massive spending is about rewarding teachers’ unions and other constituencies that helped both Joe Biden and Roy Cooper get elected.
The largest increase in Cooper's proposed state appropriations would be for employee salaries and benefits. Cooper's proposal does not provide price tags for Leandro or Medicaid expansion. Cooper would also eliminate successful and popular Opportunity Scholarships.
Since 2019, after rocketing upward for seven years, North Carolina’s average teacher salary has increased by only $452, or 0.8 percent. Democratic obstructionism and uncertain economic conditions at the height of the pandemic led to two consecutive years of negligible salary growth.
Cooper recommends 11 and 16 percent spending increases for K-12 public education for the next biennium, focusing on teacher and administrator pay increases, bonuses, hiring more staff and raising pay to $15/hour for noncertified staff.
The new Comprehensive Remedial Plan to comply with the Leandro ruling lacks critical details for how its measures would provide all public school children a sound basic education. Democrats and activists are pressuring the Republican-led General Assembly to adopt these expensive proposals — or the judge to force them despite the constitutional separation of powers.
HB 32 would expand eligibility for the Opportunity Scholarship program, peg the scholarship award to a percentage of state per-pupil support, and combine existing special-needs programs into one. SB 297 would give homeschool families a nonrefundable state tax credit of up to $1,000 per child.
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson recently launched the F.A.C.T.S. (Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students) Task Force, which is dedicated to "exposing indoctrination in the classroom and ensuring that our students are taught how to think — not what to think"
North Carolina has a fund balance of $5.4 billion, the state has yet to spend $254 million of previous federally distributed aid, and schools will receive another $3.8 billion in aid because of the American Rescue Plan. Since the aid is more than needed to return children to the classroom and spread out over seven years, it should be seen for what it is: a bailout for teacher unions from Democratic lawmakers.
"I am a Democrat. He’s the governor, and a Democratic governor.” And with that explanation, North Carolina state senator Paul Lowe cast the deciding vote to sustain Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of a bipartisan bill offering in-person learning for kids.
Learning loss is a real problem without a simple, one-size-fits-all solution. For addressing a student's learning deficit, research increasingly favors tutors because they have different skill sets than teachers. Education Savings Accounts are another way to tailor solutions to a struggling student's individual needs.
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