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The Senate budget will include a pay raise

A note from us

Welcome to the latest edition of Awake58. We hope you will stay a while. If you received this email without a subscription, please click here to subscribe to this newsletter.

The state has a LOT of money according to the latest consensus revenue forecast… The Senate budget was just released… We want to hear from all 100 counties… The Longleaf Commitment rollout continues across the state…

We want to hear from you. In the year ahead, we will travel to all 100 counties as a team. Traveling has been part of our DNA from the very beginning. When we first launched, we decided our offices would be in the schools, colleges, coffee shops, churches, and other places out in all of our communities. We were committed to listening to all of you to better understand your stories — and the opportunities, challenges, people, and ideas shaping what is now and what is next.

As part of the process, we want to hear from all of you. We’d like to know where you turn to for news, who you trust to share relevant information, the strengths and challenges of your community, and more. Your answers will shape our work as we move forward, so please share your perspective on your community by clicking below.

Click here to take our survey.

If you are so inclined, we’d love for you to share the link with your friends, family, and colleagues. Hearing from all of you matters.

The Senate released its budget late yesterday afternoon after Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, held a press conference to preview the highlights. From EdNC’s Alex Granados:

Senate leaders gave reporters a glimpse of their two-year spending plan at a press conference yesterday, announcing a 3% pay raise for community college employees as well as a $13 minimum wage for non-certified community college employees.

Other highlights revealed in a press release include $76 million to stabilize budgets at community colleges facing enrollment declines, $15 million in federal funds for broadband access at 25 rural community colleges, and increasing the need-based assistance program by 7.5%.

Other community college items from Senate press release include:

  • “Provides $5.2 million over the biennium to assist community colleges in starting programs in high-demand career fields that require significant start-up funds.
  • “Establishes the North Carolina Community College Short-Term Workforce Development Grant Program and allocates $3 million in each year of the biennium to provide up to $750 to students pursuing workforce credentials.
  • “Adds $1.5 million per year for childcare grant funding, which aids community college students with childcare expenses.”

The Senate budget comes on the heels of the consensus revenue forecast that was released last week showing the state has an additional $6.5 billion in revenue for the biennium that extends through 2022-23.

It isn’t revelatory to note that $6.5 billion is a lot of money for our state budget, but the number only grows more significant when combined with the influx of federal funding from three rounds of federal COVID-19 relief funds.

EdNC’s Mebane Rash wrote a piece yesterday exploring the money, leadership, initiatives, and issues influencing the education landscape as we head into the official start of summer. The whole piece is worth a read, but relative to the budget and consensus revenue forecast, I would make note of this section:

There is an unprecedented amount of money to invest in our schools and our community colleges, in our state and our future.

Let’s start with three sources of money:

  1. The federal COVID-19 relief dollars
  2. The state’s unallocated general fund balance that has accumulated in large part because there wasn’t a budget agreement in 2019
  3. Anticipated state revenues for 2021-23

Keeping track of all of it — and who can spend it and how long they have to spend it — is not easy.

There have been three tranches of federal funding: the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted in March 2020 totaled $2.2 trillion, including $34.25 billion specifically for education; the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act enacted in December 2020 totaled $900 billion, including $87.79 billion specifically for education; and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act enacted in March 2021 totaled $1.9 trillion including $137.76 billion specifically for education. There are three funds for education in each act.

It is important to note that county and local governments also have money they can allocate towards local community colleges. We’ll be tracking the state budget as it develops. In the meantime, we would be curious to hear your thoughts on how community colleges ought to spend their federal dollars. You can reply directly to this email with your thoughts — or text COLLEGE to 73224.

I will be traveling to Alamance Community College this week, as well as North Carolina A&T State University. Please follow along on Twitter @Awake58NC. After this week, I am taking a few weeks off to recharge and reflect. We will be pausing the newsletter for two weeks, and then my colleagues Emily Thomas and Molly Osborne will take the lead on Awake58 while I am away.

I’ll see you out on the road,

Nation Hahn

Head of Growth —

EdNC reads

State has additional $6.5 billion in state revenues to spend this biennium

As mentioned above, the state budget is the hot topic in North Carolina politics and policy this week with the release of the Senate budget proposal. As Dan Gerlach likes to note, “this is the end of the beginning” of the budget process. We have proposals from Gov. Roy Cooper, a spending cap agreement from the NC House and NC Senate leadership, and now the Senate budget. So, here we go.

Alex’s piece from last week tells the story of North Carolina’s consensus revenue forecast coming in at $6.5 billion higher than previously projected:

The state is looking at a total of $60.4 billion through 2022-23, with $29.7 billion of that in the first year and $30.7 billion in the second, according to the press release.

“These new numbers show unprecedented resources are now available to make transformational investments for our state. … [W]e have enough money to pass my entire budget plus all those tax breaks with more money still remaining. We must now negotiate a responsible bipartisan budget that addresses everyone’s concerns,” Cooper said in a press release.

The forecast does not include federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, according to Cooper’s press release.

A statement from Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said that the good news of the forecast doesn’t mean now is the time to spend.

“A huge surplus does not mean we’re spending too little,” he said in a press release. “It means we’re taxing too much.”

For more on the revenue forecast, including a reaction from House Speaker Tim Moore, click here.

Where our students fit in the politics of education and race

As we officially enter summer, it is time to turn our attention towards visiting the beaches and mountains of North Carolina… but, also, we must turn our attention towards the coming school year and the landscape facing our education sectors.

EdNC CEO Mebane Rash just released an in-depth view of the landscape for education — and what is to come. Spend some time with the ideas and issues that could positively impact the next academic year:

Several statewide initiatives continue to push forward with cross-sector, bipartisan support amidst the politics.

Thanks to the leadership of myFutureNC, North Carolina has an attainment goal: By 2030, 2 million North Carolinians will have a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential. Here you can see county profiles. Recently, 15 community collaboratives were selected for their work “to better align their education systems with the needs of their regional economy.”

The Longleaf Commitment is a big win for myFutureNC and North Carolina. High school seniors from low- and middle-income families can get “at least $2,800 in federal and state grants to cover tuition and most fees at any of the state’s 58 community colleges.”

…There are a couple of promising things to watch that are bubbling. Transcend Education will be announcing which district in North Carolina will be part of their inaugural cohort of innovative rural schools. North Carolina is part of the Path Forward, which will allow “state leaders to share strategies for embedding the science of reading into teacher training programs, holding those programs accountable for early literacy outcomes, and enlisting the help of philanthropic groups in such efforts.” And David Stegall will continue to lead DPI’s work on innovation, including (hopefully) the development of a graduate profile — a shared, aspirational vision of what skills students have when they graduate.

Spend time with her piece today. We would love to know what you are most excited about for our community colleges as you look ahead. Please reply directly to this email — or text COLLEGE to 73224 — with what gives you hope.

Around NC

From our Ed Daily: “Are you passionate about supporting K-3 students? Do you want to help the next generation of readers and leaders reach their full potential? If so, apply to join the 2021-2022 corps of 250+ North Carolinians working as high-impact early literacy tutors in public schools across the state. … Corps members are paid, work part-time (10-15 hrs/wk or 20-25 hrs/wk), receive exceptional pre-service training and in-service support, commit to eight months of service, and have the opportunity to change lives. This is a particularly good opportunity for community college and university students (especially those interested in teaching!), stay-at-home parents, and retirees (including retired teachers). Apply here.”

We are excited to announce that Anna Pogarcic, recently the editor-in-chief of the Daily Tar Heel, will join our team this summer — and you will see a lot from her soon. I wanted to officially welcome her to the team and celebrate her being named one of the Education Writers Association’s Reporting Fellows for the year ahead.

The legislature moved a little slower last week, but a piece of legislation concerning eligibility for membership on the Isothermal Community College’s Board of Trustees was taken up.

I spent time with our survey of 5,000+ community college students over the weekend — and I was struck by these findings regarding online learning:

Only 2% of survey respondents said they did not have internet access at home (note that this is likely lower than in the overall community college student population since the survey was conducted online). However, 30% of respondents said their internet is not always reliable, including 37% of continuing education students, 35% of Hispanic students, and 44% of American Indian students.

The same percentage of students said they have a laptop on which to do their coursework in this year’s survey as last year’s survey (84%). However, only 74% of continuing education students said they have a laptop compared to 86% of curriculum students.

Finding a quiet place/time for schoolwork continues to be the biggest challenge for students with their online coursework, followed by using the online learning system and accessing the internet. About one-third of respondents (31%) said they’ve had no issues with online learning over the past 30 days.

Spend time with the survey — and let us know what you think.

The word regarding the Longleaf Commitment continues to spread. Local media spotlighted efforts from both Craven Community College and Stanly Community College.

Durham Tech president JB Buxton joined a local radio show to discuss the expansion of Durham Tech’s presence in Orange County among other items.

Other higher education reads

WEBINAR | Reconnecting Recent High School Graduates With Their Education Aspirations

From Strada Education:

“The high school classes of 2020 and 2021 have endured massive disruption to their education experiences. As enrollment trends show, many of these learners are choosing not to continue their education journeys beyond high school. Of vital interest to Strada Education Network and stakeholders across the country is the sharp decline in postsecondary education enrollment from students attending high-poverty high schools.

This month, Strada researchers and panelists will explore the perspectives of these learners who delayed or canceled their education plans, including the barriers they face and what it will take to reconnect them to education.

Join us at 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 23, for the latest findings and a webinar conversation.”

You may RSVP here.

The cost of completing college

The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) hosted a gathering recently focused on various promising practices in supporting student success. Kim Gold from the N.C. Community College System office was one of the panelists. It is worth a watch.

REPORT | Perceptions of Postsecondary Education and Training in Rural Areas

This report regarding rural community members’ views about postsecondary education and workforce training has some promising results for college leaders, as well as some warning signs for enrollment post-pandemic:

In general, rural respondents answered favorably when asked about motivations for past and future education and indicated perceived value in pursuit of education and training. However, most respondents indicated they would not pursue additional education and training in the next five years, in part because of the barriers they identified — including COVID-19, costs in general, and uncertainty in career pathways.

New podcast alert: When policy meets practice

National education group JFF just launched a new national podcast: When Policy Meets Practice. They describe the podcast as follows:

For this podcast series, When Policy Meets Practice, JFF teams up with long-time higher education journalist Paul Fain to explore the critical role of education and workforce development policy in shaping nation’s economic recovery and renewal.

In each episode, Paul speaks with community college leaders who serve on JFF’s Policy Leadership Trust to lift up lessons about which policy approaches are producing results for workers, learners, and employers, and which policy approaches are falling short.

New episodes will debut each Monday. To subscribe, click here.

Nation Hahn

Nation Hahn is the chief of growth for EducationNC.