Gov. Roy Cooper is doubling down on his declared “state of emergency” over K-12 public education funding in North Carolina. On June 12, Cooper put out a press release referencing more than 25 school districts that have spoken out against a yet-to-be-determined state budget currently being worked out by lawmakers in the House and Senate.
“North Carolina’s public schools are in jeopardy due to dangerous Republican legislation that would siphon funds away from the classroom and make our teacher shortage worse,” Cooper said in a statement. “As they learn about this, local school board members and superintendents from rural and urban areas are beginning to call on legislators to do the right thing and invest in public schools.”
Cooper’s press release specifically mentions 10 school districts that have passed resolutions urging lawmakers to significantly grow spending on public education. His release also referenced additional school leaders who have spoken out against a proposed expansion of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, creating a pathway for more families to send their children to a private school of their choice.
The House and Senate have passed their own versions of a spending plan for the new biennium, both of which increase spending on public schools.
On the Senate side, the budget allocates $11.5 billion to K-12 public education in fiscal year 2023-2024 and $11.7 billion in fiscal year 2024-2025. Teachers would receive an average raise of 4.5% over the biennium, with starting teacher pay increasing by almost 11%. The plan also creates a new School Health Personnel Allotment and increases funding by $10 million recurring to help schools hire around 120 more nurses, counselors, social workers, and psychologists.
Meanwhile, the House budget is even more generous in dolling out raises — a 7.5% across-the-board teacher pay bump over the biennium, in combination with other targeted boosts and step increases, resulting in a total average increase of 11.2%. The overall spending amount is roughly in line with the Senate’s, at around $24 billion across the two-year period.
“Would Republican budget actions to expand school choice decimate the public schools? Hardly,” noted Dr. Robert Luebke, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation. “The fearmongering is in full swing, but the facts don’t square with Gov. Cooper’s narrative. Let’s remember: the K-12 education budget has increased for 12 consecutive years, soon to be 13, growing from $7.1 billion to $11.1 billion. Moreover, per-pupil expenditures have increased from $7,800 to $12,300. Does that sound like a system that’s being decimated?”