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A budget that does not prioritize education

The state budget released by the House and Senate budget conference does not make education a priority for our state.

While there are some positive elements in the budget, including increased funding for textbooks, an increase in the starting pay for new teachers, and a one-time $750 bonus for all teachers, overall it fails to deliver the strategic investments we must make if we are to have an education system worthy of North Carolina’s children.

 Our teachers, the single most important factor in academic achievement, are once again largely left out. Nearly 70 percent of NC public school teachers will receive no salary increase at all in this budget. The protection of 7,500 teacher assistant jobs was certainly the right thing to do, protecting the much-needed classroom support in our early grades, but it’s a sad day when we are spotlighting resources we didn’t lose instead of increased support for education.

While it’s true that the General Assembly has boosted overall education spending over the past several years, we are a rapidly growing state, and the increases have barely kept up with our growth. In fact, under this budget, our per-pupil spending will still be below pre-recession levels. And while increased textbook and digital resources funding is welcome news, the amount of funding is still less than half of what the state invested in textbooks six years ago. Coupled with more cuts to our state universities and tuition hikes for community colleges, this is a budget that does not prioritize education.

Keith Poston

Keith Poston is the president and executive director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina.