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.