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Dispatch: Contention in the Committee Room

Rep. Henry Michaux
Rep. Henry Michaux

Members of the General Assembly’s Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on Education heard a presentation on the Governor’s proposed budget today. But a dispute erupted between Democrat Rep. Henry Michaux and Republican Sen. Jerry Tillman over an increase in funding for textbooks. 

Under Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget, schools would get an additional $35 million ($70 million over two years) to be used on textbooks and other instructional resources. 

But in fiscal year 2013, the General Assembly gave local districts more flexibility when it comes to spending state dollars on education. With some exceptions and limitations, school districts can use state funds allocated for one purpose (textbook funding, for example) for a different purpose.  Here is the authorizing statute, and a chart that explains the flexibility that school districts now have.

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Sen. Jerry Tillman

Michaux says that means the $35 million increase may not actually be used for textbooks. 

“That’s my problem,” he said. “We’re still not looking out for the textbook shortage.” 

Sen. Jerry Tillman defended the flexible spending, saying it was necessary. 

“We heard hundreds of superintendents say, ‘Please, give me the flexibility,'” he said. 

The governor’s Education Advisor Eric Guckian also defended the flexibility at the committee meeting, saying the governor stands behind it. 

Michaux said in an interview after the meeting that it puts local districts in a difficult spot. If they can use the money for other purposes, they may feel conflicted about the best way to spend it.

“What do they short themselves on if they use it for textbooks? Do they short the teacher for teacher supplies? Do they short buying an extra tank of gas?” he said. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.