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Public education takes hit in Senate budget

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  • The Republican-led Senate released its budget proposal for the next two years on Monday, and the items included suggest that public education is not a priority. #nced
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Update, May 18 at 2:00 p.m. – The Senate passed its budget 37-12 on Thursday with bipartisan support. Now, the Senate and House must work together to pass a compromise budget.

The Republican-led Senate released its budget proposal for the next two years on Monday, and the items included suggest that public education is not a priority.

“As many of you know, school choice has been a core priority for the Republican General Assembly,” Senate Appropriations Chair Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, said at a press conference about the budget on Monday. “That’s something you’re going to see in this budget.”

The budget would add more in recurring funding to expand private school vouchers through the Opportunity Scholarship Program over the biennium than it would add to implementing its proposed teacher salary schedule, by about $27 million.1

The expansion could have a huge impact on public schools, who rely on a measure of enrollment for their funding.

“It makes no sense to me to provide money to the traditional public schools for children they’re no longer educating,” President Pro Tempore Sen. Phil Berger, R-Guilford, said in response to a question asked by EdNC about the impact of the expansion.

As EdNC previously reported, in other states where significant policy changes are implemented that could impact average daily membership (ADM), stabilization funds have been proposed for districts.

With the additional allocations, the Senate’s revised net appropriation for the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Reserve is $636 million over the next two years. The budget also proposes an additional $11 million to fund additional vouchers in 2023-24 and removes all income eligibility requirements for recipients, starting with the 2024-25 school year.

By 2031-32, the proposal allocates more than $505 million to the Opportunity Scholarship reserve. 

Republican sponsors have said their intent in expanding private school vouchers is to guarantee school choice for all North Carolina families. However, the proposed expansion could pose a threat to overall funding for public schools and more importantly to enrollment.

A fiscal note from the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) published last week said the proposal would decrease total state funding for public schools by $203.8 million if 50% of new Opportunity Scholarship recipients previously attended public school. The note included 5-8% decreases in state funding in some rural counties.

Meanwhile, the Senate proposal includes a raise of just $200 a month for teachers with 0-5 years of experience in 2023-24, which decreases with years of experience, until teachers with 14 years of experience or more would only receive $20 a month, essentially a 0% raise.

This year, given inflation, the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) is 8.7%.

The teacher raises proposed by the Senate are less than those proposed by both Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican-led House.

It’s important to remember that the state started the budget process anticipating a $3.25 billion surplus. Last week, the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) and the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division issued a revised consensus revenue forecast predicting a slightly smaller surplus, down by $135.8 million, or a decrease of 0.4%.

Historically, education is the largest area of the state budget, and this year would be no different. The Senate budget, as of Wednesday, appropriates $29.7 billion total the first year and $30.8 billion the second, with education making up 58% and 57% of each spending plan, respectively. 

The Senate budget appropriates $17.2 billion to education in 2023-24, with $11.5 billion going to K-12 education items. The Senate proposal also includes $4.3 billion to the UNC System and $1.5 billion to the N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) for both years of the biennium. 

In 2024-25, the Senate’s total education budget is $17.6 billion, with $11.7 billion going to K-12 education items.

While the Republican-led House and Senate appropriated comparable amounts in education overall, the House budget proposed much higher raises for teachers and other state employees. That proposal included a 7.50% across-the-board pay raises for teachers over the biennium, with an average pay raise of 10.2% for teachers slated to get step increases.

In comparison, the budget proposal from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper included $13.4 billion in the first year and $14.3 billion in the second year for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). That budget included an average raise for teachers of 18% over the biennium and would have spent $3 billion more than the budget proposed by Republicans.

“This Republican Senate budget is a historic disaster for public education,” the Governor said on Wednesday. “It fails to fund basic needs and will force school leaders to cut everything from bus routes to courses even though North Carolina can afford to do much more.”

Several Democrats harshly criticized the Senate’s proposal at a press conference on Tuesday. 

Sen. Rachel Hunt, D-Mecklenburg, said public schools are the school of choice for nearly 80% of our students.

“In the past 10 years, Republicans in the General Assembly have defunded and undermined North Carolina’s public education system. They have prioritized tax cuts for corporations and wealthy North Carolinians over funding working families education,” Hunt said. “They have shown us who they are and what they value. They are anti-public education. They are anti-teacher and they are anti-student. We have to look no further than the Senate budget.”

Cooper’s plan also included full funding for the Leandro Plan, aimed at getting the state in line with its constitutional duties on education. Neither the House nor the Senate plan explicitly mentions funding Leandro. The General Assembly’s current shortfall for Years 2 and 3 of the Leandro Plan is nearly $510 million, per an April court order.

In addition to proposals on vouchers and teacher pay, the Senate proposal also includes some provisions to address school safety and rising school meal debt. It does not include enactment of a weighted student funding model, which was proposed last month to overhaul the state’s current funding system.

The Senate’s budget was heard in committees on Tuesday, with anticipated votes on Wednesday and Thursday.

This year, because of the Republican supermajority and the deal on Medicaid expansion, the governor’s budget proposal is less important for passing a budget. Once the Senate budget is passed, the House and Senate will then work together to reach a compromise budget.

Below, you can find analysis of the major education items in the Senate budget, along with how those compare to the House proposal.

See the money report for the Senate proposal here.

See the bill text for the proposal here.

More on pay raises

A National Education Association (NEA) report from last month ranks North Carolina 36th in the nation for average teacher salary and 46th for average teacher starting salary.

For teachers, the budget allocated $99.4 million in recurring funds the first year to “implement a new teacher salary schedule for FY 2023-24.” The budget also allocates $152.7 million in recurring funds for “an intended teacher salary schedule for FY 2024-25.”

Here are the new proposed schedules.

Screenshot from bill text of the Senate budget.
Screenshot from bill text of the Senate budget.

While Republican Senate leaders pointed to an average 4.5% pay increase for teachers on Monday, that number is not explicitly listed in the budget.

Berger said on Monday that the Senate chose to primarily invest in a “significant raise” for beginning teachers, rather than higher across-the-board raises, in order to aid recruitment. Beginning teacher pay is set to increase from $37,000 to $41,000 over the next two years, according to the budget proposal – an increase of 10.8%.

The budget proposal does not specifically address retaining experienced teachers. But when you compare the proposed salary schedule for 2023-24 to last session’s teacher salary schedule, the one currently in place, the increase for teachers with 14 years or more of experience is $20 a month.2 Berger said those teachers will get step increases and could qualify for advanced teaching roles.

The proposal does not include anything about reinstating master’s pay, which was included in the House proposal.

“By the end of the biennium, average teacher pay will be $59,121. This keeps us on par with neighboring states,” Berger said at Monday’s press conference. “The increase of the starting teacher pay, along with UNC System keeping tuition flat at our universities, should help encourage more adults to pursue teaching as a professional.”

The State Board of Education and teachers say many educators make far less than the average amount Berger cited, according to a report by the News & Observer. That average figure includes at least 12 years of experience, and local salary supplements that vary widely by district. 

North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) President Tamika Walker Kelly said in a statement on Tuesday that the Senate budget does not go far enough in raising starting teaching salaries or funding salary supplement funds in communities with the least amount of resources.

“The Senate’s proposed pay raise for teachers will not make up for cost of living increases and is a step backward from the House budget, which called for a 10% raise over two years as well as funding for master’s pay for teachers and paid parental leave for school employees,” she said.

The Senate proposal outlines the following supplements for teachers paid on the new salary schedule:

  • Licensed teachers who have NBPTS certification shall receive a salary supplement each month of 12% of their monthly salary on the “A” salary schedule.
  • Licensed teachers who are classified as “M” teachers shall receive a salary supplement each month of 10% of their monthly salary on the “A” salary schedule.
  • Licensed teachers with licensure based on academic preparation at the six-year degree level shall receive a salary supplement of $126 per month, in addition to the supplement provided to them as “M” teachers.
  • Licensed teachers with licensure based on academic preparation at the doctoral degree level shall receive a salary supplement of $253 per month, in addition to the supplement provided to them as “M” teachers.
  • Certified school nurses shall receive a salary supplement each month of 10% of their monthly salary on the “A” salary schedule.
  • School counselors who are licensed as counselors at the master’s degree level or higher shall receive a salary supplement each month of $100.

The budget also allocates $10.9 million in recurring funds both years toward salary supplements for teachers serving in advanced roles, in districts participating in the Advanced Teaching Roles program. For eligible teachers in such districts, adult leadership teachers will receive a $10,000 supplement. Classroom excellence teachers will receive a $3,000 supplement.

The House proposal included an additional $70 million in both years of the biennium for a program that provides funding for local districts to boost their local teacher supplements.

While the Senate budget does include supplemental funding allotments for disadvantaged students and small and low-wealth counties – with part of those funds able to go toward teacher supplements – the proposal does not include general funding toward local teacher supplements.

The Senate budget also instructs the State Board of Education to create a consolidated bonus program for the biennium “to reward teacher performance and encourage student learning and improvement.” Then, the board must study and report back to the General Assembly on “the effect of the program on teacher performance and retention.”

You can find the proposed bonuses below. To read more about the program, go to page 94 in the bill text of the budget. The bonuses will be awarded based on data from the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.

  • Advanced course bonuses: $50 to qualifying advanced course teachers for each student taught in each advanced course who receives a 3 or higher on Advanced Placement exams, a 4 or higher on the International Baccalaureate course examination, and a C or higher on the Cambridge AICE exam.
  • Career and Technical Education (CTE) bonuses: $25 for each student who attains an industry certificate/credential with a $25 value as laid out in the budget, $50 for each student who gets a certificate/credential with a $50 ranking, as outlined on page 96 of bill text.
  • Statewide growth bonuses: $5 million will go toward $2,000 bonuses for eligible teachers, as laid out in the budget bill text.
  • Local growth bonuses: $5 million will be allocated for $2,000 bonuses to eligible EVAAS (Education Value-Added Assessment System) teachers, as laid out in the budget bill text.

There is also a signing bonus for teachers in small county and low-wealth counties, to be established by the State Board of Education.

The budget proposal also includes $82.2 million in the first year for school district personnel state retirement contributions, and $97.5 million in year two. There is also a one-time cost-of-living supplement to retirees of 1% in both years, and $131 million over the biennium to provide additional funding toward the state health plan.

Finally, there is $450,000 in recurring funds both years to DPI “to support economics and personal finance professional development for teachers.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, during the press conference announcing the Senate budget bill Monday. Liz Bell/EducationNC

Pay for other school employees

Most other school employees will receive an across-the-board salary increase of 2.5% in the first year, or a 4.5% increase if the employee is paid on an experience-based salary schedule. There is an additional across-the-board salary increase of 2.5% the second year.

This raise includes non-certified school employees such as teacher assistants, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, and custodial workers.

The proposal also includes $1.2 million in recurring funds both years to fund labor market salary adjustments for positions not paid based on experience-based salary schedules. Overall, the budget appropriates $94 million into the Labor Market Adjustment Reserve.

For school psychologists, and school speech pathologists and school audiologists licensed at the master’s degree level or higher, the first step of the salary schedule is equivalent to the sixth step of the teacher salary schedule, $4,475. In addition, these employees will receive a monthly salary supplement of 10% of their monthly salary, and $350.

School psychologists, speech pathologists, and audiologists are also eligible to receive the salary supplements given to teachers at the six-year and doctoral degree level.

Assistant principals are also to be paid on a new salary schedule. The budget allocates $1.3 million in the first year and $1.9 million the second year to implement those changes.

For the 2023-2024 fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2023, “assistant principals shall receive a monthly salary based on the salary schedule for teachers who are classified as ‘A’ teachers plus 19%. An assistant principal shall be placed on the step on the salary schedule that reflects the total number of years of experience as a certified employee of the public schools.”

Assistant principals with certification at the six-year degree level will receive a salary supplement of $126 per month. At the doctoral degree level, the monthly supplement will be $253.

The budget also proposes a new salary schedule for principals.

Screenshot from bill text of the Senate budget.
Screenshot from bill text of the Senate budget.

The proposal also outlines bonuses for principals, noting that principals can only receive one bonus, paid at the highest amount for which the principal qualifies.

Screenshot from bill text of the Senate budget.

The Senate budget does not include anything about principal licensure. House Bill 432, which crossed over on April 28 and passed its first reading in the Senate, would no longer require classroom teaching experience for school principals, as recommended by DPI.

Finally, the budget proposes to increase the state superintendent’s salary by $14,512 in 2023-24, followed by a $29,024 increase in 2024-25.

The budget cuts $12.7 million in recurring funds both years to “to reflect changes in the average salary of various public school positions based on actual salary data from December 2022.” The adjustment does not reduce any salary paid to personnel, or reduce the number of guaranteed state-funded positions.

Rep. Tricia Cotham speaks about her support of opportunity scholarship expansion at a press conference. Hannah McClellan/EducationNC

Private school vouchers

The Opportunity Scholarship program – which is funded under the UNC System – is radically expanded under the Senate budget, which includes wording from Senate Bill 406.

The program provides public funding for students to attend private school. Historically, the program targeted low-income students.

The expansion proposed in SB 406 and the Senate budget would eliminate income eligibility requirements for the program, guaranteeing up to a 45% scholarship to all N.C. students. It also eliminates the requirement that a student needs to have previously attended a public school.

The proposal allocates $105 million in additional recurring funds the first year and $163 million in recurring funds the second year to the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Fund Reserve.

“Funding provided for this purpose is intended to help prevent a waitlist for the program,” the budget says. “The revised net appropriation to the Reserve is $281.5 million in FY 2023-24 and $354.5 million in FY 2024-25.”

By 2031-2032, the proposal allocates more than $505 million to that reserve, which was originally allocated at $296 million. As a reminder, the General Assembly short fall for the Leandro Plan is $510 million.

Here’s a look at the proposed allocations for the reserve.

Screenshot of bill text of Senate budget.

The budget also allocates $11 million in nonrecurring funds to support additional vouchers for 2023-24 academic year.

Nonpublic schools do not have the same state accountability requirements in place as public schools do, which many opponents to the program’s expansion have criticized.

Historically, most vouchers also go to religious schools, WRAL reported, with eight of the 10 top recipients of Opportunity Scholarships being Christian-affiliated schools. Critics say some religious schools reject certain students, such as LGBTQ+ students and students with a different religious background.

The Senate budget also requires local school boards to create a three-year graduation track for high school students. Students who opt for that track – and who also seek a degree, diploma, or certificate at an eligible postsecondary institution – will be eligible for “early graduate scholarships” based on financial need.

Other K-12 items

In addition to the new salary schedules and pay raises proposed, the Senate budget also includes several new policies about school nurses, school funding, career development, and more.

School funding

The budget allocates $20.1 million both years “for an allotted ADM of 1,549,792 students in FY 2023-24.”

There is a provision in the budget instructing DPI to develop a funding in arrears model, which means public school funding would be based on the actual average daily membership (ADM) from the prior school year, instead of projections for the upcoming school year.

Under the proposal, DPI would have to distribute funding in arrears starting with the 2024-25 school year.

In March, Senate Republicans filed Senate Bill 670, which would abolish “all funds, grants, allotments, and other sources of funding that expend their funds from the State Public School Fund,” to enact a weighted student funding model.

That proposal is not included in the most current Senate budget. However, the bill text of the budget does direct DPI to study and create a weighted model for Exceptional Children (EC) students. The model should fund children “on the basis of the reported cost of services provided.” DPI must report back to lawmakers by Jan. 15, 2024 with such a model, along with a comparison to funds under the existing model.

Another provision in the budget codifies funding for children with disabilities.

To the extent funds are made available for this purpose, the State Board shall allocate funds for children with disabilities to each local school administrative unit on a per child basis. Each local school administrative unit shall receive funds for the lesser of (i) all children who are identified as children with disabilities or (ii) thirteen percent (13%) of its allocated average daily membership in the local school administrative unit for the current school year.

Senate budget bill text

The proposal includes a similar provision for academically or intellectually gifted (AIG) children, allocating funds for a maximum of 4% of its ADM, “regardless of the number of children identified as academically or intellectually gifted in the unit.”

There is also $1.95 million in nonrecurring funds over the biennium to fund a “special needs pilot program.” With these funds, DPI will contract with Amplio Learning Technologies, Inc. to pilot a special education digital intervention software platform in Alamance, Catawba, and Nash county schools.

As for supplemental funding, the allocation for low-wealth counties and at-risk student services allotments is $16.8 million for both years.

There is also $4.7 million in recurring funds each year to increase all tiers of the small county supplemental funding allotment, bringing the total requirements to $59.4 million each year.

School nurses

The Senate budget creates a new School Health Personnel Allotment. Under the proposal, this allotment will now include the previously named School Psychologist Allotment to cover all health categories. The House budget also made this change.

There is also a $10 million recurring increase in funding to add about 120 nurses, counselors, social workers, and psychologists across the state – which adds just over one health personnel per school district. The revised total requirements for this allotment are $347.4 million in each year of the biennium.

The budget does not include any language from HB 382, which would allow registered nurses with at least two years of experience to work in schools. School nurses would no longer have to, within three years of being hired, earn a bachelor’s degree and a National Certification for School Nurses under that bill.


The budget includes several provisions aimed at improving early literacy.

Under the budget, DPI would receive $1.5 million in recurring funds over the biennium to go toward funding early regional literacy and early learning specialist positions. The revised net appropriation for this purpose is $14.8 million in each year of the biennium.

There is also $969,000 in recurring funds both years toward Pre-K early literacy for “DPI to select and purchase a supplemental assessment that adequately measures early literacy skills identified by the Science of Reading, accompanying assessment materials as applicable, and training for all pre-K teachers.”

The bill text of the budget also prohibits “three-cueing,” which is a method of teaching students to read based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues.

Career development

There are several provisions in the budget concerning career development for middle and high school students, with several coming from bills that made crossover.

The budget directs the State Board of Education to develop standards for a new career pathways course in middle school. That course will help meet another new requirement, which requires seventh graders to develop career development plans in order to move to the next grade level. In 10th grade, students must revise that plan to move to the next grade.

The State Board must pick at least 20 local school administrative units to pilot the career development plan requirements during the 2023-24 year. Then, the budget says, the state will implement the full plan in 2024-25.

Charter schools are not required, but encouraged to make such plans.

School safety 

There is $35 million in recurring funds both years for school safety grants, which is similar to last year’s allocation. The budget also allocates $1.7 million over the biennium to the Center for Safer Schools’ anonymous tip line, which facilitates anonymous reporting of school safety threats.

N.C. Emergency Management will also get an additional $2.5 million in recurring funds to hire new support staff and continue developing statewide school safety programs, according to the budget.

School meals and supplies 

For two school years during the pandemic, all students, regardless of income, could eat school meals for free. Since the waivers providing free meals ended, meal debt across the country has grown.

Unpaid student meal debt in North Carolina now exceeds $3.3 million, up from $1.3 million in November 2022. Unlike the House budget, which included $7.8 million in nonrecurring dollars to “satisfy any outstanding meal debt,” the Senate proposal does not directly allocate funds to the debt.

Instead, the budget allocates $9 million over the biennium “to offset the copays for students eligible for reduced-price lunches and breakfasts in schools participating in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.” In 2023-24, $3 million of the $6 million allocated funds are nonrecurring.

If those funds are insufficient to provide free school meals to students who qualify for reduced-price meals, the budget says DPI “may use funds appropriated to the State Aid for Public Schools fund for this purpose.”

Reginald Ross serves school meals at a drive-thru site in October 2020. Courtesy of the School Nutrition Association

There is also $500,000 in 2023-24 and $5.5 million in 2024-25 – both nonrecurring – for DPI “to create a pilot program to increase the number of schools participating in the federal CEP program, which allows for free meals for all students in a participating school food authority.” The pilot would start in the second year.

Finally, the budget prohibits schools from imposing administrative penalties on students for unpaid meal debt. Such penalties could include withholding school records or not allowing students to attend award ceremonies or graduations.

You can read more about the push for school meals for all in North Carolina here.

The Senate budget also includes $250,000 to schools for feminine hygiene products each year. The revised net appropriation is now $500,000 each year of the biennium.

There is also $12 million over the biennium to go toward classroom supplies, and $11.2 million in recurring funds each year to replace school buses. Both items are completely funded by transfers from other funds.

Data and programs

There are several provisions to increase data capabilities at DPI in the Senate’s budget.

There is $2.8 million in additional funds over the biennium to the Uniform Education Reporting System (UERS), which supports multiple software platforms provided to public school units, including a student information system. The revised net appropriation for UERS is $11.5 million in FY 2023-24 and $11.9 million in FY 2024-25.

There is also $550,000 in nonrecurring funds both years for DPI to continue contracting with SAS to analyze learning recovery data, plus $465,000 both years toward student analytics.

The budget also includes provisions and funds for several programs.

  • Instead of granting calendar flexibility, the Senate budget would create a high school remote instruction flexibility pilot. The state superintendent would pick 10 high schools to participate in the pilot, which would allow students to take first-semester exams before Dec. 31. The pilot would also allow the schools to use up to 30 hours of remote instruction to take the exams by that point.
  • There is $7 million in nonrecurring funds both years to the SparkNC Pilot Program, a partnership between SparkNC and public school units “to develop a pathway for students to complete modular learning experiences that provide a competency-based equivalency to a traditional elective course credit.”
  • There is also $500,000 in recurring funds both years to Beginnings for Parents of Children Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Inc, “a nonprofit that helps parents and families understand hearing loss and the diverse needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The revised net appropriation for this purpose is $1.5 million in each year of the biennium.”

What’s different from the House proposal?

Several education items included in the House proposal are not in the current Senate budget:

  • Improving math performance, in part by capping class sizes in grades four and five at 24 students. The House later paused this reduction for a year to help districts struggling to find teachers to meet those requirements.
  • The creation of a task force to study the opportunity gap and come up with ways to shrink it.
  • Language from a bill that allows for the creation of remote charter academies and extends the pilot of the state’s two virtual charter schools.
  • The creation of the Charter School Review Board, which would have the final power to “approve or deny charter applications, renewals, and revocations,” rather than the State Board of Education.
  • Requiring districts to make available to the public information on what instructional materials and activities are being used in classrooms. The information would be included on a school’s website and organized by subject and grade.
  • The creation of a commission selected by the General Assembly to develop recommendations for the standard course of study, currently set by the State Board of Education.
  • Language that could expand the presence of renewal school districts in North Carolina. These are traditional public school districts that have similar flexibility to charter schools.
  • Expansion of the N.C. Teaching Fellows program to all public colleges and universities as well as four private ones, and it expands the subject matter eligible to include all subjects. Previously, it was focused mainly on those who wanted to become STEM teachers.
  • Transferring control of the state’s schools for the deaf and blind from the State Board of Education to boards of trustees appointed largely by the General Assembly.

Early childhood

The Senate’s proposal allocates a total of nearly $253 million in 2023-24 and $253 in 2024-25 for the Division of Child Development and Early Education under the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees most of the state’s early care and education funding. In total, the proposal includes roughly $1.6 million in new funding to the division in each year of the biennium. 

The Senate budget allocates an additional $1.5 million nonrecurring to Smart Start for the administration of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that provides free books for children. In total, the proposal would allocate $158.5 million for Smart Start in each year of the biennium.

There is no new state funding for the continuation of compensation grants to child care programs, which was the priority item of the early childhood caucus this session.

It asks the division to direct a portion of one-time federal subsidy funds given to the state under the American Rescue Plan to continue the compensation grants.

Caucus chairs asked for $300 million for the grants, which would help programs that have used federal relief funds to raise teachers’ wages avoid a fiscal cliff at the end of this year as those funds dry up. The governor’s budget included $500 million for this purpose. The House budget did not include funding for the grants.

The Senate budget also does not include new money for NC Pre-K, the state’s preschool for at-risk 4-year-olds. It appropriates in total $47.4 million for the program in each year of the biennium.

The budget directs $43.8 million in each year of the biennium to the child care subsidy program from federal funding streams: the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) block grant and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) emergency contingency funds.

Senate Bill 20, which restricts abortions after 12 weeks, does allocate $32 million recurring in 2023-24 and $43 million recurring in 2024-25 to the subsidy program. The Senate and House successfully overrode Cooper’s veto of the bill on Tuesday night.

The budget allocates an additional $1.2 million recurring to the community college system in each year of the biennium for the community college child care grant program, which helps students cover the cost of child care. The revised net appropriation for the grants is now $3 million each year.

The budget does not include child care pilot programs the House proposal did, including Tri-Share — a model that would split the cost of child care between the state government, participating employers, and eligible employees. The House budget allocated $900,000 in each of the next three years for the pilot to operate in three counties.

Go here for more on what early childhood items are still active this session.

Community colleges and HBCUs

The Senate’s proposal appropriates $1.5 billion to the N.C. Community College System (NCCCS) during both years of the biennium. The proposal includes an across-the-board salary increase of 2.5% in 2023-24 for most employees, or a 4.5% increase if the employee is paid on an experience-based salary schedule. There is an additional across-the-board 2.5% increase in 2024-25.

Those proposed raises are less than that included in both the governor’s and House budgets. The raise is also less, for most employees, than the system’s legislative request for a 7% increase over two years. 

The budget allocates about $285 million in new funding to the system over the biennium. This is more than the system’s legislative ask for $232 million – but the funding does not include the full employee pay and student investment items the system requested.

However, there is $26.2 million in recurring funds both years for labor market adjustments for employees not paid on that experience-based schedule, at community colleges and the system office. In comparison, DPI was allocated $1.2 million each year.

“The funds shall be used by agencies to address specific staffing issues by providing targeted salary increases to recruit and retain capable labor,” the budget says.

As was the case for school employees, the budget also funds an increase in state contributions for members of Teachers’ and State Employees’s Retirement System, along with continued health benefit coverage. It also provides a one-time cost-of-living supplement to retirees of 1% each year. 

The budget includes a 3.1% increase in funds, based on the system’s full-time equivalent (FTE) increase.

There are several workforce items related to health care, including additional salary increases to nursing faculty – increasing starting pay by 10% and other nursing faculty potentially “receiving salary increases up to an additional 15%.”

It also provides nearly $70 million in nonrecurring funds to develop and expand community college courses in high-demand fields like nursing and other health-related programs. All but nearly $9 million of those funds will be transferred from the ARPA Temporary Savings Fund.

On Tuesday, an amendment cut $650,000 from the first year of funds for high-cost workforce programs (line item 20). Instead, the $650,000 was allocated to Pamlico Community College’s prison education program.

In the capital portion of the budget, there is also $200 million over the biennium for capital projects at 10 community colleges related to health care workforce training, and one college’s advanced manufacturing program.

Nearly $4 million in recurring funds is allocated both years to create a regional support network to support training and job opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities across the state. There is also $750,000 in nonrecurring funds in 2023-24 for the system office to contract with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services for a 3-year pilot program. The program would “place vocational rehabilitation counselors in colleges to assist students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with their career-related goals.”

Additionally, there are several allocations to support local community college services and programs.

The proposal also includes policies nearly verbatim to the most updated version of Senate Bill 692, which would overhaul community college governance. Among other things, the Senate proposal requires General Assembly confirmation of the NCCCS president and significantly changes the makeup of both the State Board of Community College and local community college boards. Read more about that bill here.

LaTasha Bradford, president of N4CSGA and State Board student representative, speaks about the importance of student voice at the Senate Higher Education Committee’s discussion of SB692. Hannah McClellan/EducationNC

Lawmakers have long been asking to improve data at the system. The Senate budget allocates $15 million from the Information Technology (IT) Reserve to upgrade Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems at individual colleges in 2024-25. The funding will build on an initial pilot program to “ensure interoperability between the System Office ERP system and the ERP systems of each college.”

For students, the budget bill text creates a short-term workforce development grant program. Under that program, and “to the extent funds are made available for the Program, the State Board of Community Colleges shall award grants in an amount of up to seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00) to students pursuing short-term, noncredit State and industry workforce credentials.” 

There is also funding to be transferred from the Need-Based Scholarship for Public Colleges under the UNC System to the Community College Reserve. The $12.5 million transferred the first year and $25 million the second year are “intended to increase financial aid available to community college students.”


The budget does not allocate new funding to the state’s five public historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), with the exception of North Carolina A&T State University. However, the capital allocation funds several renovations at NC A&T, Winston-Salem University, and North Carolina Central University.

The Senate budget does not include an appropriation of $20 million over the biennium to the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) – which includes the state’s private HBCUs – to go toward health care programs, which was included in the House budget.

There is an additional $10 million in recurring funds each year, along with $5 million nonrecurring the first year, to help NC A&T become the first HBCU to obtain the R1 research university designation, as defined by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The funding will go toward programs, research faculty and staff, research expenditures, and infrastructure. 

There is also an additional $10.7 million both years to support the college’s Agriculture and Cooperative Extension programs. The new appropriation for the programs is $22.1 million each year. The budget also includes $5 million each year “for faculty, staff, equipment, facility improvements, and other resources needed to support an expansion of the College of Engineering.”

Finally, there is $5.3 million in nonrecurring funds both years for the UNC Board of Governors to direct to several UNC System schools “to provide aid to students who are on track to graduate but at risk of dropping out because of financial shortfalls.” Those schools include the state’s five public HBCUs.


  1. Line item 105 in the budget committee report allocates $268 million to the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Fund Reserver over the biennium. Line item 106 allocates $11 million to expand opportunity scholarships in 2023-24, bringing the total allocation for the Opportunity Scholarship Program to $279 million. In comparison, line item 28 allocates $252 million to the teacher salary schedule over the biennium – $27 million less than what is allocated to Opportunity Scholarships.
  2. You can view the teacher salary schedule passed for 2022-23 here. The new Senate proposal puts the monthly salary for teachers with 14 years of experience at $5,120, teachers with 15-24 years of experiences at $5,220, and teachers with 25+ years at $5,420. The current schedule, passed last long session, has teachers with 14 years at $5,100, teachers with 15-24 years at 5,200, and teachers with 25+ years at $5,400.

Behind the Story

The early childhood subsection of this article was written and reported by EdNC’s Liz Bell. EdNC’s Rupen Fofaria also contributed reporting.

Hannah Vinueza McClellan

Hannah McClellan is EducationNC’s senior reporter and covers education news and policy, and faith.