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Perspective | North Carolina has money. Just not for public education

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The State of North Carolina has money. In 2022, North Carolina had over $6 billion in unappropriated funds. This year, North Carolina is expected to have at least $3 billion more than budgeted in revenue. 

This is a significant surplus.

Yet, the Senate’s budget released yesterday based solely on input from the Senate Republican supermajority only gives teachers an estimated raise of 4.5%, on average, over two years. And, for many teachers, that figure is much less than 4.5%.

North Carolina already ranks 36th in the nation in average teacher pay — nearly $12,000 below the national average. And while neighboring states are passing their largest teacher raises in history, the Senate’s proposed “raise” will not even keep up with inflation.

While educators struggle to pay their bills amid rising costs, North Carolina lawmakers are effectively turning their backs on them.

Teachers will continue to leave the profession to teach in other states or work in other fields. Vacancy rates will continue to rise, and our students will shoulder the impact of the state’s unwillingness to invest in them. 

As a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, we focus on facts. While nearly 70 legislators visited schools on Monday for Bring Your Legislator to School Day and witnessed the unbelievable work of educators and students, our Senate presented a budget that does the following:

  • Ignores the calls of parents and leaders in education, community, and business to fund a meaningful pay increase for educators. In this budget, a teacher with 17 years of experience would receive a $200/year raise, which is less than $20 per month.
  • Allocates approximately $252 million over the biennium for teacher pay increases, compared to a staggering $279 million for private school vouchers. 
  • Disregards the calls from nearly every district in the state asking for calendar flexibility, instead recommending a complicated 30-hour high school remote flexibility program. 
  • Does not allocate additional funding for the NC Teaching Fellows Program or National Board Certified Teacher process and does not restore Master’s pay for teachers — all of which were included in the House budget proposal.

This budget proposal does not only cut funding for our schools while allocating hundreds of millions of dollars for private school vouchers; it also leaves out low-cost opportunities to strengthen the teaching profession and changes for students that have received bipartisan support.

This wasted potential clearly demonstrates that this budget is all about politics — and not about people — and especially not about kids.

If this is not the N.C. you want, contact your legislators. Remind them that we have the money, and that we DO want it invested in our public schools.

The 1.5 million public school students in our state deserve it.

Mary Ann Wolf

Mary Ann Wolf, Ph.D. has served as President and Executive Director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina since June 2020, bringing with her more than 20 years of educational policy and leadership working directly with schools and districts across North Carolina to improve equity and build capacity for innovation.