The Senate’s proposed budget is out, featuring about an extra $277 million in appropriations for state education.
Remember that this budget isn’t a brand new thing, but rather a revision of the 2016-17 budget passed during the General Assembly’s long session last year.
The single largest line item in public education are the teacher raises we wrote about last week. The Senate’s proposed budget would spend about $280 million in recurring funds to give an average 6.5 percent salary increase for teachers, according to the Senate’s budget report. The proposed budget also features one-time bonuses for assistant principals of $500 and $2,000 for principals.
The Senate is also proposing $10 million for a 3rd grade reading teacher performance pilot. This 2-year program would give bonuses to the top 25 percent of both statewide and district 3rd grade reading teachers based on their student growth scores for reading as measured by the EVAAS assessment system.
In sharp contrast to the House budget, the Senate is proposing extra money for 2nd grade classroom teachers positions. The plan is that the extra teachers will decrease the teacher to pupil ratio by one student in 2nd grade — to 1 to 16.
The House cut out of its budget funding for extra 1st grade teachers, in part to help pay for literacy coaches, which House leaders said would be more beneficial. Second grade wasn’t even mentioned in the House budget. Literacy coaches aren’t mentioned in the Senate budget.
Also in contrast to the House proposed budget, the Senate wants to change the school performance grades to a 10-point scale. They are currently on a 15-point scale, and in the House proposed budget would remain that way. At a 10-point scale, the number of schools considered low performing in North Carolina (581) is likely to go up. The Senate proposed budget would leave the ratio that determines the school performance grades the same — 80 percent school achievement, 20 percent school growth. The House proposed changing that to a 50-50 split.
The Senate is proposing roughly the same amount of additional funding for textbooks and digital materials — $9.2 million — as originally budgeted during the long session. however it’s changing the funds from recurring to non-recurring, which means that the money won’t be guaranteed going forward. The total revised appropriation for textbooks and digital materials is $61.5 million.
The Senate wants to spend $112,500 on a scholarship program for teacher assistants. It would give tuition reimbursements of up to $4,500 each year for 25 teacher assistants in select counties so they can pursue a college degree with the goal of becoming a teacher.
Opportunity Scholarships get a big boost under the Senate’s plan. The bill says that starting in 2017-18, an additional 2,000 Opportunity Scholarships will be available to students, and the bill proposes increasing funds for the program by $10 million each fiscal year for 10 years. In 2016-17, there is almost $35 million in funding. By 2026-27. there will be almost $135 million.
The Senate is proposing a 4.8 percent cut to the Department of Public Instruction. Last year, the Department got a 5 percent cut in funding from the General Assembly.
The Senate is also eliminating the Principal Preparation Program altogether. The House budget proposal included $7.5 million extra for the program.
See the Senate proposed money report for the budget.
Here’s the proposed Senate Committee Substitute on the bill.