News: CJ Exclusives

House K-12 education budget includes pay raises, policy changes

Shutterstock photo
Shutterstock photo

The House on Monday, April 29, unveiled a $14 billion education budget for fiscal 2019-20. The budget not only includes dollar amounts for various education programs and raises for educators, but also several policy changes.

The House budget overall appropriates $23.9 billion through the state’s General Fund, slightly less than the $24 billion cap agreed with the Senate. After the House completes its work Friday, the budget will move to the Senate, then to a conference if there are any differences.

“While we are only at the beginning of the process, I am pleased to see so many of our #NC2030 top priorities in the House education budget bill,” State Superintendent Mark Johnson said in a statement following the release of the House education budget. “We have more work to do, but we are on the right track.”

Teachers, assistant principals, and principals will see raises under the House budget plan. The budget provides an average 4.8% raise for teachers, 6.3% raise for assistant principals, and a 10% raise for principals. Non-certified school staff will get a 1% pay raise or $500, whichever is greater.

Under the House budget, the average teacher pay will rise to $55,600 by 2020. Veteran teachers on step 30 of the teacher salary scale will get at least $60,500. The budget also seeks to connect principal pay to the teacher salary scale.

“Teachers that have been in the profession for 30 years, their base salary in this budget will finally exceed the national average at $60,500,” Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes, said at a news conference unveiling the salary package. “This is critical particularly for our rural areas that have trouble attracting younger educators.”

House lawmakers want to change the formula for grading schools for the annual school report cards. Instead of the current 80-20 split for achievement and growth, the new policy would implement a 50-50 split. The budget would make the 15-point grade scale (A = 85-100, B = 70-84, and so on) permanent.

One provision would prevent school districts from changing academic calendars “unless necessary to address a severe weather condition, energy shortage, public health crisis, school safety crisis, emergency related to a school building or school transportation, or act of God.”

A related provision would prevent teachers from taking a personal day off from work unless a substitute teacher is confirmed available. This policy change comes as the N.C. Association of Educators has scheduled a teacher rally in downtown Raleigh to demand more public education funding and Medicare expansion. At least 31 school districts and four charter schools plan to close May 1 because of the number of teachers who are taking the day off. Last year, 42 school districts closed for the May 16 teacher rally.

Another policy change would ease reporting requirements for the Opportunity Scholarship program. Under the budget, the program would no longer require private schools that enroll at least 25 Opportunity Scholarship program students to provide the state with those students’ test results every year.

A $2.5 million portion of unexpended voucher program funds would pay for data collection of nonpublic schools and maintain a website providing information to families in choosing a nonpublic school. Another $500,000 of unexpended voucher funds would go to marketing, outreach, and application assistance for the program. Children in some private schools or in schools through the Department of Defense would also be eligible for scholarships.

Under the budget, the N.C. Teaching Fellows program would expand from five participating higher education institutions to as many as eight. The provision directs a commission overseeing the program to choose a diverse selection of higher-education institutions. House lawmakers are also looking to fully restore master’s degree pay for teachers who earn the degrees in the subject that they teach and to codify the advanced teaching roles program.

The budget also moves the state closer to a weighted-student funding formula with a $1 million allocation to hire an outside firm to develop the formula.

Due to an expected decline in student enrollment for 2019-20, the budget allocates a small increase of $3.1 million for the average daily membership. The following fiscal year, however, yields a $53.6 million increase based for ADM.

Here are several big-ticket items in the House K-12 Budget:

  • The budget appropriates $118.5 million in 2019-20 and $228 million in 2020-21 to increase compensation for teachers and instructional support staff
  • $48 million over the biennium to increase principal and assistant principal compensation
  • School mental health support personnel grants: $19 million in non-recurring funds for the 2019-20, and $30.2 million in recurring funds for fiscal 2020-21
  • Classroom supplies: $15 million in non-recurring funds for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years, bringing the total allotted for classroom supplies to $62.5 million in each year of the biennium
  • Textbooks and digital resources: $1,326,271 in recurring funds, $10 million in non-recurring funds for fiscal 2019-20, and $8.8 million in recurring funds for fiscal 2020-21. This brings the total amount allotted for textbooks and digital resources to $73.3 million for fiscal 2019-20 and $70.8 million for fiscal 2020-21
  • School resource officer grants: $3 million in non-recurring funds for fiscal 2019-20, and $7.7 million in recurring funds for fiscal 2020-21
  • School safety equipment grants: $3 million in non-recurring funds for fiscal 2019-20, and $6.1 million in recurring funds for fiscal 2020-21
  • School safety training grants: $3 million in non-recurring funds for fiscal 2019-20, and $4.6 million in recurring funds for fiscal 2020-21  
  • Students in crisis grants: $2 million in non-recurring money for fiscal 2019-20, and $4.6 million in recurring money for fiscal 2020-21
  • Virtual early learning pilot: $1 million in non recurring funds in fiscal 2019-20 for a virtual preschool pilot program
  • Doubles funding for the Governor’s School summer program for gifted high school students to $1.6 million per year
  • $1.5 million non-recurring each year for expansion of State Computer Science Plan