Republican lawmakers in North Carolina doubled the share of new state spending for public schools since 2011, compared to eight years prior of Democrat leadership in the legislature.
The North Carolina General Assembly directed twice the portion of state budget growth to public schools from 2011-2018, under Republican majorities, compared to 2003-2010, when Democrats controlled the legislature, in budget figures provided by the state’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division.
Half of new state spending in North Carolina went to K-12 classrooms since Republicans gained control of the state legislature in 2011, while just one-quarter of budget growth was given to public schools in the eight years prior.
State House Speaker Tim Moore said the figures mark a stark reversal of priorities for North Carolina public schools:
“When we spend additional taxpayer dollars earned by hardworking North Carolinians, we put them to their highest and best use – our children,” said state House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland).
“Education is the top priority of our successful approach to the state budget, benefitting students, teachers, and taxpayers across North Carolina.”
Education’s increased share of state spending is driven by five consecutive teacher salary increases that produced the third fastest rising teacher pay in the United States and provided nearly half of North Carolina teachers at least a $10,000 raise since 2014.
Public schools’ share of annual new state spending under Republicans reached as high as 80% in 2013-14.
Legislative Republicans also increased total annual spending on public schools more than their Democrat predecessors over the eight-year period they held majorities in the state General Assembly.
In total, Republican lawmakers increased annual K-12 spending in North Carolina by over $2.5 billion this decade, growing the total yearly appropriation to public schools from $7 billion in 2010 to $9.54 billion in 2018.
“Doubling public schools’ share of new spending demonstrates our commitment to growing investments in our children and educators,” said Rep. Craig Horn (R-Union), a co-chair of the state House Education Appropriations Committee.
Last decade, Democrat lawmakers raised annual spending on public schools by about $1.7 billion from 2003 to 2008, increasing the K-12 appropriation from $6 billion in 2003 to $7.8 billion in 2008. Between 2009 and 2011, however, Democrats cut education spending by over $700 million because their tax-and-spend approach and lack of savings left North Carolina financially unprepared for an economic recession.
Rising Taxes 2003-2010 – Tax Relief 20011-2018
Democrat lawmakers imposed four sales tax increases on North Carolina families last decade, hiking taxes by $729 million in 2003, $879 million in 2005, $543 million in 2007, and $1.8 billion in 2009, while putting less than a quarter of new spending towards public schools.
By comparison, state Republican lawmakers have levied a lower sales tax rate, income tax rate, and corporate tax rate since gaining control of the state legislature in 2011, saving taxpayers over $5 billion while directing half of new state spending to K-12 appropriations.
General Fund Growth
Legislative Democrats increased annual General Fund spending by over $1 billion four years in a row from 2004-2008 – average annual growth 8.7% – but public schools received just 27% of those additional dollars.
By contrast, Republican leaders have never increased total General Fund spending more than 3.85% per year, but sent 49% of new spending to public schools since 2011.
“The increases in total state spending by Democrats last decade led to higher taxes and financial insolvency, while only one quarter of that spending growth went to our teachers and classrooms,” said senior House budget writer Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake).
“Under Republicans, roughly half of our budget growth has been dedicated to K-12 education.”
Long-Term Budget Responsibility
Since 2011, Republican lawmakers have enacted long-term fiscally responsible policies to ensure the state can maintain its rapid growth in education spending and prevent drastic cuts in an economic emergency.
Today North Carolina has a record $2 billion rainy day fund, the largest in state history both in terms of whole dollars and the percentage of the state budget.
On August 13, 2018, the Fiscal Research Division announced a $400 million surplus in the 2017-18 Fiscal Year, which ended June 30.
The state also passed H.B. 7 Savings Reserve Requirement to ensure lawmakers continue to prepare for the future.
The state’s new Unfunded Liability Solvency Reserve became law in 2018 to proactively address over $50 billion in unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities.
The state took on $2.8 billion in debt from federal unemployment benefits between 2008 and 2012, generating massive interest payments worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Legislative Republicans repaid that debt ahead of schedule by 2015.