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House, Senate and Governor’s Plans: Top 10 education budget items compared

The passage of the House budget last week was the third of three possible budgets for the state: one by Governor Roy Cooper, one by the Senate, and the House version. Leaders in the House and Senate are conferencing to hash out their differences and devise a compromise budget that will be debated in both chambers. Once lawmakers have reached a resolution, the final budget will go to the Governor for his possible signature. All three proposals contain important education provisions. Here is a look at 10 issues in all three proposals: 

Teacher pay


Governor Roy Cooper proposed what many Democrats are calling the best teacher pay plan. It raises teacher salaries an average of more than five percent in both years of the biennium, for a total that equals a more-than 10 percent increase over two years. The governor’s budget provides raises for all teachers. 


The Senate proposal includes an average teacher pay raise of 3.7 percent this year and 9.5 percent over the biennium. Beginning teachers and teachers with 25 or more years of experience would not receive raises. Teachers with 9-14 years would receive the largest salary increases. 


Rough estimates from the fiscal research division of the General Assembly show an average increase in teacher salaries of 3.3 percent in 2017-18 and between 9 and 9.5 percent over the biennium, but they are more heavily weighted towards teachers later in their careers. The plan also includes a bonus of $5,000 for teachers with 27 or more years of experience if they commit to two additional years of teaching. 

Principal pay

There are numerous challenges with the current principal pay schedule, highlighted in our earlier coverage here. The issues with the schedule include principals who go years without an increase in pay from the state and teachers who sometimes get paid more than the administrators who oversee them. 


The Governor’s budget spends about $20 million in both years on principal pay, providing a 6.5 percent pay increase to principals and assistant principals. It leaves the current principal pay schedule as is. 


The Senate version of the budget funds more than $28 million of increases in principal and assistant principal salaries in the first year and about $34 million in the second year. The funds would come from the North Carolina Education Lottery. Assistant principals would receive the top teacher salary plus 13 percent. The principal salary schedule is based on average daily membership (ADM) of the school. The budget completely revamps the principal pay schedule. 

The budget also includes bonuses for principals who are in the top 50 percent for school growth in the previous year. 

If a principal oversees a school that went from not exceeding expected growth to exceeding expected growth, the Senate’s plan offers a bonus of $5,000 — and an additional $10,000 if that school has a D or F performance grade.


The House budget spends about $38 million in the first year and almost $56 million in the second year on principal and assistant principal pay increases. Like the Senate version, it revamps the salary schedule.

The revamped House principal schedule is calculated by combining years of experience with the average daily membership of the principal’s school and a percentage of the students in the school who get free and reduced price lunch. The salary schedules of teachers, assistant principals and principals are also tied together.

For instance, the basic principal salary schedule — not including the aspects of principal pay related to average daily membership and free and reduced lunch population — is calculated by taking the monthly amount of pay for a regular teacher of 15 years, adding in 12 percent, and then adjusting according to the principal’s years of experience. 

Assistant principals are paid the same as regular teachers with equivalent years of experience but with an additional 22 percent added on top. 


Governor, House and Senate

Both the Governor’s budget and the Senate’s proposal provide $10 million for textbooks and digital resources in both years of the biennium. The Governor’s proposal gives that in non-recurring dollars while the Senate’s proposal uses recurring funds. The Governor’s measure would also give an additional $3 million in recurring dollars in both years, bringing the total appropriation up to $74.5 million in both years of the biennium. The Senate’s proposal would add an additional $1.1 million in non-recurring dollars in the first year of the biennium, making the net appropriation $66.6 million in the first year and $65.5 million in the second.

The House budget proposal provides about $10.3 million in additional non-recurring funding for textbooks and digital resources in the first year of the biennium, bringing the net appropriation for that year up to $65.8 million. The second year appropriation would be $55.5 million.

Opportunity scholarships

House and Senate

Last year, the budget gave $34.8 million for opportunity scholarships with an ambitious plan to increase funding by $10 million each year until 2026-27. Both the House and Senate budgets keep to that plan, appropriating $44.8 million in 2017-18 and 54.8 million in 2018-19.


The Governor’s budget ends the expanded Opportunity Scholarship Program and only funds the program for those students already participating. 

Teaching fellows program

The original Teaching Fellows Program, started in 1986, gave scholarships to students to attend college and train to become a teacher provided they were willing to teach in North Carolina schools for at least four years after graduation. Funding was ended in 2011 by the General Assembly. 


The governor’s budget presents a program similar to the original Teaching Fellows Program. It creates the NC Best and Brightest Forgivable Loan Program, giving up to $10,000 each year for four years for students who want to teach in public schools.

Senate and House

Both chambers propose a Teaching Fellows program that differs from the original. 

The new program would give students up to $8,250 per year in loans that could be forgiven if the students become teachers and serve for a certain period of time at North Carolina elementary or high schools, but the students would have to specialize in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) or special education field.

Superintendent staff positions

Superintendent Mark Johnson is party to a lawsuit over legislation passed during a special session in December that transferred some of the State Board’s power to the superintendent. One of the powers Johnson gains under that legislation, should the legislature’s move stand, pertains to who he can hire and fire. Currently, he is able to give input on some hires but the State Board has the final say.


The Governor’s budget offers no funding for dedicated positions to the superintendent’s office. 


A provision in the Senate budget gives Johnson funding to hire up to five positions that would report directly to him and would be exempt from the State Human Resources Act. It provides funding of more than $432,000 in both years of the biennium. 


A provision in the House budget gives Johnson funding to hire up to 10 positions that would report directly to him and would be exempt from the State Human Resources Act. It provides funding of more than $921,000 in both years of the biennium.

DPI budget cuts


The Governor’s budget does not reduce funding for the Department of Public Instruction. 


The Senate budget would reduce the Department of Public Instruction’s budget by 25 percent. In addition, it would eliminate the following positions: 

  • Research Associate
  • Digital Learning Plan Project Coordinator
  • Director of External Meetings & Special Projects 
  • Director of State Board Operations
  • Legislative and Community Affairs Director
  • Legislative Specialist
  • Associate State School Superintendent
  • Planning and Development Consultant II


The House plan eliminates the following positions from DPI. 

  • Education Diagnostician I 
  • Education/Development Aide II 
  • Education/Development Aide II 
  • Program Assistant V
  • Chief Performance Officer
  • Accountant
  • Education Consultant II
  • Business Technology Analyst

NC Pre-K

Governor and House

Both budget proposals from the Governor and the House include funding for about 4,700 additional NC Pre-K slots to eliminate the waiting list for the program. 


The Senate budget proposal would likely leave some children on the waiting list. It has funding to add about 1,150 slots in the first year of the biennium and 2,350 slots in the second year. 

School performance grades

School Performance Grades are presently calculated using a formula of 80 percent academic achievement and 20 percent academic growth. 


The Governor’s budget does not address the school performance grades. 


The Senate budget leaves the formula for school performance grades as it is. 


The House budget would change the school performance grades in such a way that every school would get two grades — one for academic performance and one for academic growth. 

Funding for enhancement teachers

Last year’s budget instituted class size restrictions that were slated to go into effect this coming school year. The restrictions eliminated flexibility that local school systems used to fund so-called “enhancement” teachers (art, physical education, music and other extracurricular teachers). House Bill 13 delayed full implementation of those restrictions until the 2018-19 school year, but some districts are worried that the state will not give them funding for enhancement teachers going forward. 


The Governor’s budget does not address the issue with funding for enhancement teachers


The Senate budget does not provide dedicated funding for enhancement teachers. But a provision in the budget states that the General Assembly intends to use data collected from reporting requirements to fund a new K-5 allotment for enhancement teachers. 


The House budget includes a provision that directs districts to report on building capacity limitations related to the class size restrictions, but it has no dedicated funding for enhancement teachers. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.