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Governor’s Education Cabinet talks budget and bonds

Governor Pat McCrory’s Education Cabinet met this morning at SAS Institute, and the topic of conversation was the recent budget and the Connect NC infrastructure bond.

The Cabinet heard from State Budget Director Lee Roberts who briefed members on what impact the recent passing of the biennium budget would have on education in the state — from pre-K to postsecondary. 

Roberts noted that too often in budget discussions about education, the focus is on the inputs instead of the outcomes. 

Focusing on what has been achieved with the budget and bond proposal, Roberts noted that the Connect NC bond proposal was particularly significant given the resources it would allocate to education in the state.

“It is a $2 billion bond package,” said Roberts. “The majority of that goes to education. About a billion goes to the UNC system, about $300 million goes to the community college system — all community colleges, all 58 community colleges across the state.”

Roberts noted that the bond would be the first general obligation bond issue in the state in 15 years, a period in which the state has added more than two million people in population.

“Now is the time to invest in the infrastructure needs of our state, particularly as it relates to education, particularly at a time when interest rates are as favorable as they are,” said Roberts.

The bond referendum is scheduled for March 2016.

In regards to the budget, Roberts noted that since 2013 the state has increased funding on education by 9.6 percent, more than a billion dollars, with a 12.1 percent increase in K-12 funding, 5.9 percent increase for community colleges, and 3.9 percent for the UNC system.

“We have provided an average four percent pay increase for teachers,” said Roberts. “We have fulfilled our promise to raise the starting base pay for teachers to $35,000 a year.”

“We believe when you look at, across the board, at K through 12, at early childhood education, at the community college system, and at the UNC system, all four of those elements working together, there is a consistent story of investment and commitment from this administration in education across the state,” said Roberts.

On the bond issue, Governor McCrory noted that now the focus needed to turn to educating the public to assure passage in March.

McCrory said he would seek the Cabinet’s input on how to best do that.

“The way you win is to make sure the public clearly understands this is the right time for this investment,” said McCrory. “And with the low interest rates it’s a very good time to get this on the ballot.”

UNC President Tom Ross said to the Governor, “This wouldn’t have happened had you not put this up on the table and teed it up for public debate, and I for one really appreciate it…. It will matter for North Carolina.”

Watch the video below for highlights.

Todd Brantley

Todd Brantley is the senior director of public affairs at The Rural Center. He formerly served as director of policy and research at EducationNC.

He grew up in Randolph County where he attended Farmer Elementary School, Randleman Middle School, and Randleman High School. Todd attended Randolph Community College before graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1995. He received a master’s in theological studies from Duke Divinity School in 2002 and a master’s from the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2009.

Prior to his work at The Rural Center and EducationNC, Todd also worked as the associate communications director at MDC providing strategic communications support for several programs, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Partners for Postsecondary Success and the Developmental Education Initiative. Todd was part of the writing and research team that produced the 2010 and 2011 State of the South reports. While a graduate student, he interned at The Story with Dick Gordon and was the editor of The Fountain, the alumni magazine for the Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill.

He was part of the research and writing team that received the Governmental Research Association’s 2014 Most Distinguished Research Award for a report on the use of telepsychiatry in rural areas. He was a co-author of How the Triangle Gives Back, a 2008 report that examined local philanthropic and charitable giving in the Research Triangle region. His writing and research has appeared in the Daily Yonder; Insight, a publication of the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research; and NC DataNet, a publication of The Program on Public Life at UNC-Chapel Hill.

A native of North Carolina, Todd currently splits his time between Raleigh and Pikeville, where he helps maintain his wife’s family’s farm. He says, “As a product of this state’s systems of public education, from secondary, to the community college system, to our public postsecondary system, I have seen firsthand how important these institutions are for the social and economic wellbeing of this state and its citizens. Regardless of whether you are a new resident or a native, a parent or not, we all benefit from the fruits of our current system of public learning, and the hard work and foresight of those who came before us who understood that, regardless of political affiliation, North Carolina needed to be a national leader in access to quality education for everyone.”