John Locke Update / Research Brief

A Closer Look at Education in the Senate Budget Plan

posted on in Education, Education (PreK-12), Spending & Taxes
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  • The Senate budget plan would address current education spending needs, increase salaries for teachers and education personnel and offer bonuses, and increase all steps of base teacher salaries
  • It would also expand eligibility for Opportunity Scholarships, raise the value of the scholarships, and increase the annual payment to the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Fund Reserve
  • These are steps in the right direction, but the budget needs to be more responsive to parents seeking additional educational options and other ways to redress the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the education of our children

The Senate education budget would address current needs and expand several school choice programs, but it fails to offer creative, transformative solutions to address Covid-related issues.

Highlights of the Senate budget plan for education include:

Education (K-12, Community Colleges, and the UNC System)

  • It would increase total spending by $749.8 million in 2021-22, bringing it up to $15.149 billion (a 5.2% increase)
  • Spending on K-12 would receive a $370 million increase in 2021-22, up to $10.37 billion (a 3.6% increase)
  • In 2022-23, total state education spending would rise to $15.318 billion – a 6.3% increase over current year
  • K-12 spending would rise to $10.48 billion in 2022-23, a 4.6% rise above current levels

Salaries and Bonuses

  • Teachers would receive a 1.5% salary increase in each of the next two years
  • The Senate budget plan would also increases all steps of the base teacher salary by 0.25% in each year of biennium
  • It would implement a $13/hour minimum wage for state-funded local noncertified staff (it would provide the greater of the 1.5% pay increase or $13/hr. wage for noncertified personnel)
  • Principals would also receive a 1.5% pay raise in each year of the biennium
  • Assistant principals would receive a monthly salary based on the salary schedule for teachers who are classified as “A” teachers plus 19 percent
  • Central Office employees would also receive 1.5% pay increases each year of the biennium
  • It would give a $2,000 bonus match to small counties to recruit teachers and instructional support staff
  • It would also provide a $1,000 bonus to all public-school employees, with a $500 extra bonus for those who make less than $75,000 per year

School Choice

  • It would expand the eligibility for Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) from 150% to 175% of the maximum income level to qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program, which would mean a family of four earning up to $85,794 would be eligible for the program
  • It would expand OSP eligibility to children who are four years old on April 16 or earlier
  • Eligibility would also be expanded to students attending nonpublic schools under certain conditions
  • It would raise the value of Opportunity Scholarships to 90 percent of the average per-pupil state allocation
  • It would increase the annual payment to the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Fund Reserve by $146.6 million in 2021-22, $109.8 million in 2022-23, and then by $15 million per year until the fund reaches $270.54 billion in 2031-32

Other Highlights

  • The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER III) would receive $360 million for emergency Covid-19 relief
  • $72 million of ESSER Funds would be held in reserve by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to address learning loss
  • The Senate budget plan would appropriate $40.8 million to hire 115 additional school psychologists
  • It would allocate $250,000 for a Charter School Data Management System to create a cloud-based platform to store academic, financial, and operational data
  • It would increase appropriations by $4.6 million in each of the next two years for the School Connectivity Initiative, raising the annual appropriation to $36.5 million
  • It would include $48.7 million for school business modernization in the first year, then $37.8 million in the second year, with the funds to go toward integrated payroll, licensure, and human resource and financial information systems
  • It would provide $82.5 million to a Needs Based Public School Capital Building Fund in 2021-22 and $101.7 million in 2022-23 to increase grants to counties for local school construction

UNC System

  • The Senate budget would provide for 1.5% pay raises for faculty each year of the biennium
  • It would allocate $66.9 million for enrollment growth

The Senate budget proposals for education are a step in the right direction, but they need to be more responsive to parents seeking additional educational options and other ways to redress the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the education of our children.

For the better part of the last three decades, Dr. Luebke has been involved in improving education and expanding educational opportunity. Prior to joining the Locke Foundation, he wrote about education policy and served as the Director of Policy… ...

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