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State Board of Education hands its wish list to legislators

Included in this article: – Information on State Board of Education's Budget Request – Video of State Superintendent June Atkinson laying out budget priorities – Video of State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey talking about state's education system – Video of Q & A between legislators, Cobey, and Atkinson

The State Board of Education is asking lawmakers for a little more than $231 million for the 2016-17 school year. State Superintendent June Atkinson and State Board chair Bill Cobey presented their budget requests to the House Education Appropriations Committee Tuesday.

Cobey gave lawmakers some context for thinking about the state’s public school system.

Beyond educating the state’s children, the state’s school buses travel 1 million miles a day, which is nationally how many miles Greyhound buses travel daily, Cobey said. The state’s school system employs about the same number of people as American Airlines and Cracker Barrel combined, and the 1,276,000 meals served every day in the state’s public schools is more than all the McDonalds (475) in North Carolina, Cobey added.

Atkinson and Cobey outlined six budget priorities.

“The budget that we are proposing to you is a way to increase student achievement and increase student growth among our nearly 1.6 million children that we have in our state,” Atkinson said.

They led off with teacher pay, saying that Republican Governor Pat McCrory’s proposal of an average 5 percent pay raise for teachers is a step in the right direction.

“The governor’s budget proposal recognizes that our teachers should be paid more, and we applaud this recognition,” Atkinson said. “His budget moves us toward the State Board of Education’s goal to have our teachers being paid the highest in the Southeast.”

The budget document that accompanied Atkinson’s presentation states that it will cost $529 million, phased in over a few years, to reach that goal. Neither Atkinson nor Cobey specified exactly what kind of raise they thought teachers should get. At a January meeting of the House Select Committee on Education Strategy and Practices, Atkinson said that teachers should receive a 10 percent pay increase.

Atkinson and Cobey also asked lawmakers for $88 million for digital learning, which would be spent on textbooks and digital resources, classroom technology, and making Home Base free for all schools. According to the website of the North Carolina Public Schools, Home Base is “a suite of digital classroom management tools and instructional resources.”

“We know that we have to have tools in place for our teachers to personalize learning,” Atkinson said. “Consequently we have worked with partners…to ensure that we can move forward in meeting that goal.”

Teacher recruitment and retention is also high on the State Board’s priority list. The Board is asking for $21.4 million for professional development, training for lateral entry, and bonuses for educators who exceed growth in the lowest-achieving 5 percent of schools.

Other items on the wish list include:

A little more than $13 million for “State Agency Support of Public Schools. This includes funds for school turnaround efforts, leadership programs for administrators, support for students with behavioral or emotional needs, and professional development on the Holocaust.

$107 million for “General Classroom Support,” which includes funds for instructional supplies, assistant principals, nurses, child nutrition, and support for new Cooperative Innovative High Schools.

A little more than $1.5 million for residential schools.

Here are Atkinson’s remarks:

Here are Cobey’s remarks:

After their presentations, lawmakers had a chance to grill Cobey and Atkinson. Here is the discussion:

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.