I want to lay out the facts and dispel some of the inaccuracies about education funding in North Carolina. The just-enacted budget spends more money on education than has EVER been spent on education in North Carolina ($11.5 billion out of a total $20.6 billion budget , 56%) including more than $18 million for school security and safety, including crisis planning, panic alarms, instant communication with police and other. The budget increases K-12 spending by 2.1% compared to 2012-13 actual spending ($15.3 billion in 2013-14 and $15.1 billion in 2014-15).
The budget does increase tuition at public universities for out-of-state students in order to keep tuition affordable for North Carolina families. The budget also phases out new pay supplements for teachers who earn a Masters’ degree, UNLESS the advanced degree is required for their position. If a teacher is already collecting supplemental pay, or their Masters degree will be completed by April 1, 2014, they will be grandfathered in and still collect the supplement. The plan moves teachers to multi-year renewable contracts, the length of which will depend on experience and performance reviews. And the plan will reward high-performing teachers with longer contracts and give principals the flexibility they need.
The legislature also made targeted investments to modernize North Carolina’s education. Money was targeted for increasing digital textbooks and digital training for teachers and administrators as part of their licensure. The State Board of Ed is to work with community colleges to create high school programs in engineering, technology and other high-employment fields and to prepare high school students for work, higher education or both.
A pilot program called Opportunity Scholarships will allow low-income students with disabilities to attend private school if their needs are not able to be met in traditional public schools and would allow low-income families to receive the same opportunity that wealthier families enjoy.
I am very disappointed that again there was not enough money to give a pay raise for our hard-working teachers. That was number one on my agenda and I remain hopeful that we will soon be able to reward these folks for their efforts. They have waited too long.
The General Assembly enacted a Tax Reform plan that will allow ALL North Carolina taxpayers, including teachers, to pay less in taxes. The Standard Deduction is increased to $15,000 for taxpayers who are married filing jointly, $12,000 for heads of household and $7,500 for single filers. The child credit also went from $100 to $125 per dependent for families making less than $40,000. For the most vulnerable North Carolinians, the tax rate is still 0%. When teachers, parents and all taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned money, it is good for our state’s economy. In fact, the tax reform plan moved North Carolina from 44th to 17th most business-friendly state. That means ultimately more jobs for North Carolinians, and more money for schools, roads, and all of our priorities.
Change is always unsettling, but as a state we must meet the challenges of a changing economy and provide our children the opportunities they need to lead this state into the future. A results-driven plan with a focus on modern skills and a smooth transition to higher education will allow us to leave our students with a better North Carolina.