Roy Cooper’s Education Budget: By The Numbers…

Excerpt From: Civitas Institute. Written By: Bob Luebke.

Earlier this week Governor Roy Cooper submitted his recommended state budget for 2017-19.  Cooper’s $23.5 billion-dollar budget represents his first opportunity to lay out his priorities for education and other policy areas. Let’s examine a few of the numbers Capitol watchers will be talking about in the coming weeks.

5.1 percent – increase in spending over 2016-17, under Gov. Cooper’s recommended state budget. Budget includes $1.1 billion in new spending, $783 million of which is for education (i.e., K-12, community colleges and UNC System). It’s been a long time since North Carolina has approved a budget that’s increased spending by 5 percent or more from the previous year.

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$271 million – Cooper knows his base and his first budget rewards many of his strongest supporters: educators. The governor’s budget provides 5 percent raises for teachers in each of the next two years at a cost of $271 million per year. Also included is a $150 stipend for teachers to defray costs that teachers spend on classroom supplies. The salary increases may face a tough road. They come on top of three consecutive years of average teacher raises, which when taken together total 13.8 percent.

6.5 percent – Cooper’s budget also provides generous raises of 6.5 percent to principals and assistant principals, at a cost of $20 million. The legislature currently has a joint committee studying the issue of principal and administrator pay. Cooper’s proposal raises salaries but does nothing to resolve the many problems created by the salary schedule, the biggest of which is the failure to link pay to job performance. Good teaching must be linked to financial incentives. Cooper’s teacher salary plan fails to address those concerns. It amounts to nothing but throwing money – and a lot of it – at a big problem.

4,700 – The governor’s budget calls for an additional $15 million to fund an ambitious increase of 4,700 slots for the NC-Pre-K program, the state’s program to improve school readiness for 4-year-old children.  While pre-K programs can have an immediate impact on some students, there are still concerns about long-term impacts. Cooper’s plan represents a significant expansion of a program whose value remains uncertain.

$10,000 – The governor’s budget calls for the creation of the NC Best and Brightest Forgivable Loan Program. The program provides forgivable loans of up to $10,000 per year for four years to students who agree to teach in the public schools, and for three years to teachers who agree to teach in low-performing or low-wealth schools. I’m not entirely sold that there is a teacher shortage. Are there shortages of teachers? Yes. But I’m more apt to call it a maldistribution of teaches, not an overall shortage. The money might be better spent by targeting funding on areas with chronic shortages, such as math and science.  Furthermore, how do we know that new teachers won’t continue to teach in more attractive areas? There is nothing wrong with teachers living in nicer areas. There is no reason, however, to increase the supply of teachers to do so. Plenty are already waiting to do so. This proposal is in effect Teaching Fellows II. Is there any reason to expect the Forgivable Loan Program won’t contain the same problems that led to the justified demise of Teaching Fellows?

$100,000 – The governor’s budget adds $100,000 to the budget to provide charter school “oversight” for the State Board of Education and Charter School Advisory Board. This provision amounts to nothing less than a “shot across the bow” for school choice advocates. The Office of Charter Schools and Charter School Advisory Board already have oversight responsibilities in this area. The proposal promises another layer of bureaucracy and will only further expose the deep fissures that already exist between the public schools and charter schools in North Carolina.

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