The North Carolina House’s proposed budget revisions would clear the waitlist for the Opportunity Scholarship Program and raise starting teacher pay, in addition to numerous other adjustments to K-12 public education appropriations.

Funding for schools and universities accounts for well over half of the state budget, meaning priorities in this area have a significant impact on overall spending.

The new budget includes $248 million in nonrecurring funding for Opportunity Scholarships for the upcoming school year. The funding increase will clear the waitlist for the scholarships, currently estimated at 54,800 applicants.

Opportunity Scholarships are the state’s voucher program enabling families to choose a private school education for their children. Each scholarship is valued at between $7,468 and $3,360 each year, spread across four income tier levels ranging from $57,720 for a family of four in the first tier, to more than $259,740 a year in the fourth tier. A record-breaking 72,000 applications were received for the scholarships in February.

For several years now, the budget has allocated funds for a third-party nonprofit to handle marketing for the voucher program. The new budget would increase that allotment from $2 million each year to $3 million.

In addition to funding the Opportunity Scholarship waitlist, the bill includes $24.7 million in recurring funds to clear the waitlist for the Education Savings Account program, or ESA+. There are an estimated 2,015 applicants on that waitlist.

“The House budget fully funds Opportunity Scholarships for the thousands of North Carolina families who have applied to the scholarship program,” said House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, in a statement. “Parents must be empowered to make the best education choices for their families regardless of income status.”

The Senate passed a stand-alone measure expanding the voucher program and the ESA+ program in May.

Another notable budget adjustment was proposed to the Charter Schools Review Board. The new House budget draft specifies that the State Board of Education can only approve rules for charters that have first earned approval from the Charter Schools Review Board.

In 2023, state lawmakers removed authority for approving new charters from the full State Board of Education and gave it to a new seven-member Charter Schools Review Board. Republican lawmakers believed the shift was important because the Democrat-controlled State Board of Education has rejected several charter school applications in recent years.

On the teacher pay front, the proposed teacher salary schedule for the upcoming school year boosts starting teacher pay to $44,000 per year. The average teacher salary increase amounts to 4.4%.