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Lawmakers to Vote on $20.6 Billion Budget This Week

11:02 PM, Jul 22, 2013   |    comments
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Raleigh, NC - The largest chunk of the state's $20.6 billion budget is going to fund public school and college education in North Carolina.

Eleven and a half billion dollars has been allocated for community colleges, the University of North Carolina system and public schools. It reduces spending by nearly $260 million this year, and another $222 million next year.

READ: NC House & Senate Agree on $20.6 Billion Budget

More than $7.9 billion has been set aside for the Department of Public Instruction for 2013-14. In 2014-15, the department is set to get approximately $8 billion. 

The plan for spending in the state's public school system will include $23.6 million to continue to fund the Excellent Public School Act, will eliminate the K-12 flex cut for local school systems, and will add 2,500 slots to the state's Pre-K program.

The plan would also end teacher tenure, allocate $10 million for a school voucher program, and reduce funding for teaching assistants. 

Ten point two million dollars is set aside for bonuses for high-performing teachers but does not include across-the board teacher pay raises. 

"What has happened in the past 6-7 years is we have begun to drop nationally in all of our statistics," explained Barbara Mallory, PhD.

Mallory added, "We worry about the funding overall, teachers have not seen a salary increase in this state and teachers are the key to a quality education in our state and we have got to do everything we can as leaders to support the work that they do."

Mallory is an assistant professor at High Point University and former public school principal. She fears a lack of support for teacher development will negatively affect the state's education system.

Guilford County Principal Jesse Pratt says he's looking forward to additional funds for technology in the classroom but is worried funding teaching assistants will be cut. 

"They are right along with the teacher's teaching and educating the students in North Carolina," said Pratt, "By reducing the number of teaching assistants, you are impacting the quality of education that your students are getting, or that our students are receiving in North Carolina."

WFMY News 2's Morgan Hightower spoke to political expert Thom Little about the budget proposal.

Little says a budget is a list of priorities and is crafted around a political philosophy.

"The idea is the more competition the public schools face, they'll get better because they have to," explained Little.

Eliminating teacher tenure and establishing the school voucher program might be a way to create competition, says Little.

But he believes the school voucher program will likely be met with a lawsuit.

"You know a lawsuit is coming because separation of church and state," said Little. "It's not in the wording of the constitution but it's implied in the federal constitution and the state constitution."

READ: Bill Proposes Using Tax Dollars to Pay For Private Education

"The question with education is it's about an efficient use of the money," explained Little. "For those who don't believe the school system is working, taking that money and just throwing more money is an inefficient use. On the other hand, if you do it this way, their argument is you are going to force them to spend their money more wisely and get a better bang for the buck."

This budget also...
-Fully funds enrollment growth in K-12, community colleges and the university system
-Adds $23.6 million to continue funding the Excellent Public Schools Act
-Allocates $10.2 million to fund annual pay raises for the most effective teachers
-Provides funding to implement critical school safety measures, such as resource officers, and expand the use of technology and innovation in schools
-Eliminates the K-12 flex cut for local school districts

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the budget this week.

WFMY News 2

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