The Senate, on June 13, rejected a House bill that would have allowed N.C. citizens to vote on a $1.2 billion bond package for UNC system schools through a statewide referendum. The Senate had passed it’s own version of the bill, which would allow the state to issue $3 billion in state bonds and the UNC Board of Governers to issue an unlimited amount of “special obligation bonds” without a voter referendum. A conference committee has been appointed to work out a compromise bill.
The decision to appoint a conference committee comes after weeks of negotiations between university leaders and lawmakers regarding the fate of UNC system campuses, many of which face a backlog of much needed repairs and renovations. In June, the Senate passed its version of the bill despite concerns from many lawmakers that the bill was focused too much on new construction and low-priority projects and that it required no voter approval. The House had rejected the Senate’s proposal for fear of a voter backlash.
But according to a recent analysis by the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, the House version of the bill may have been offered too quickly. While some questionable projects from the earlier bill were cut, renovations of existing campus buildings still comprise only 21 percent of the UNC package. Some questionable projects left over from UNC’s wish list include $10.5 million for a new performance building for the N.C. School of the Arts, $4.6 million for the N.C. Arboretum, $20 million for land acquisition and $9.4 million for N.C. State’s Centennial Center research campus, says Pope Center Director George Leef.
“The conference committee needs to try to address real emergency needs,” said Leef. “They also need to address wish list items, which comprise much of the bond money in both the House and Senate proposals.”
College Students Express Desire to Teach
More than 10 percent of all college freshmen want to teach, according to a recent study by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA that was reported in a June 11 New York Times article. This is the highest proportion since the early 1970s and nearly twice as many as in 1982.
From 1986-1996, the number of students obtaining master’s degrees in eductaion rose by 31 percent, compared with 22 percent in other fields. Top liberal arts colleges have also reported a surge in the number of applicants who enroll in teacher education programs. The federal Department of Education has estimated that schools will need to hire 2.2 million teachers over the next 10 years to meet the rapid increase in the number of teachers retiring, rising enrollments and growing demands for smaller class size.