After thousands of teachers and education advocates marched on Raleigh on May 16th calling for better treatment of public schools, the GOP super-majority invoked what is akin to a “nuclear” option in passing its budget. Rather than allowing for debate on matters of money from elected representatives and the opportunity of amendments, Phil Berger and Tim Moore will have the budget voted on in committee.
It is commonly speculated that this maneuver was exercised because of the teacher rally and to avert dialogue that would force them to show their hypocrisy on the treatment of teachers and traditional public schools.
That budget was released on Monday, May 28th at approximately 9:00 on a federal holiday that honors fallen soldiers who died fighting for the freedom of Americans to have a democratic process preside over matters of state in a state that is considered one of the most military friendly in the nation.
Also, that budget was released right around the tip-off of Game 7 of a highly anticipated NBA game between two of North Carolina’s most beloved native professional athletes: Chris Paul and Steph Curry.
Two-hundred and sixty-seven pages that did little to address what needs so much to be addressed.
Below are some of budgetary highlights as it deals with public education. There are certainly more to be fleshed out when more time is given.
1. More tax cuts for corporations and wealthy people.
The tax cuts that have caused a lapse of revenue that would be used to help fund schools will be extended further as was written in the budget last summer. Gov. Cooper had proposed freezing these cuts as it would further cut revenue for the state. The fact is that NC has become such a “business-friendly” state has come at the expense of fully-funding schools.
2. Teacher Pay was raised in an uneven distribution and veteran teachers were ignored.
The NCGA is bragging about an average increase of %6.5 in teacher pay. However, looking at the distribution of the raises and the influence of inflation as well as the continued absence of longevity pay, these numbers do not look very good for many teachers, especially veterans.
Consider the following table compiled by John deVille, NC public school activist and teacher veteran who has chronicled the various changes in educational policy for years.
What deVille did was to compare salaries as proposed from the recent budget to the 2008-2009 budget that was in place right before the Great Recession hit, the same financial catastrophe that most every GOP stalwart seems to forget happened ten years ago. Adjusting the 2008-2009 salary schedule with an inflation index from the Bureau of Labor, the third column shows what those 2008-2009 salaries would be like now. Most steps see a shortfall. Add to that the loss of longevity pay that was used to help finance these “historic raises” and the amount of money lost by teachers over these past ten years becomes rather eye-opening.
Also notice that the biggest shortfalls happen to veteran teachers. That not only affects take home pay, but also retirement because the average of the last four years helps to project pension.
3. Principal Pay Plan altered.
This past fall, the General Assembly rolled out a new principal pay plan to help NC’s pay rank for principals out of the cellar (it was 50th). It was crafted behind closed doors and if it was enacted as written, many principals would have lost money even though their schools showed growth.
This new budget has a principal “bonus” for performance.
4. Localities can now use property taxes to help fund schools.
This may be one of the most controversial components of the budget. What this allows for local cities and county systems to do is to use property taxes to help fund schools. As reported in the Charlotte Observer,
North Carolina’s proposed budget includes a provision that not only makes it easier for Mecklenburg County towns to create their own charter schools but allows cities across the state to use tax money for public schools (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article212094514.html).
Even more concerning is that this will open up the door for charter schools to ask localities for money to help open up more charter schools.
The budget bill opens the door for districts and charter schools to ask municipal governments to pony up for anything from school resource officers to custodians to teacher pay supplements, said Charles Jeter, a former state legislator who now works as government relations coordinator for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
Jeter is also making reference to the Charlotte-Meck fight with Matthews and Mint Hill communities which are seeking to create their own charter schools for their residents, a move that is seen by many as a way to segregate the CMS school system population with tax-payer money. Kris Nordstrom, the erudite policy analyst, did an incredible expose on this type of legislation that enables this type of segregation in Stymied by Segregation (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/STYMIED-BY-SEGREGATION-Integration-can-Transform-NC-FINAL-2.pdf).
There also might be another angle to this piece of the budget. With the class size mandate still active and the apparent debunking that the NCGA had already funded this provision, allowing property taxes to be used to help fund schools might be another way for the NCGA to say that local districts have the ability to finance the extra space and teachers needed to fund the mandate.
5. DonorsChoose.org contribution set up for select Charlotte / Mecklenburg Schools.
As reported by Ann Doss Helms in the Charlotte Observer,
One paragraph in the 267-page North Carolina budget bill released Monday night immediately had educators abuzz: The state will provide $200,000 to DonorsChoose, a nonprofit that normally channels private donations to classroom teachers, for use in 35 Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.
The listed schools span a stretch that runs from Davidson Elementary in northernmost Mecklenburg County to Elon Park Elementary in the southern tip. They cover the north suburbs, run along the county’s western edge and scoop up southwest and south Charlotte. Many are affluent suburban schools, but some have high poverty levels (http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/education/article212094969.html).
They all fall into the newly redrawn 41st Senate district represented by Cornelius Republican Jeff Tarte, who faces a competitive re-election race in November.
“I assume that’s the re-elect Jeff Tarte provision of the budget,” Jeter replied to a reporter’s query about the DonorsChoose list. Jeter, a Republican, says Tarte and state Rep. John Bradford, R-Cornelius, recently asked him for a list of all CMS schools in their electoral districts, which Jeter provided.
Ironically, Tarte had this recent Facebook post:
In essence, Tarte is having the government fund supplies for schools in his district to help his reelection campaign with a budget that is not being passed democratically.
6. ISD can run schools if it sees fit.
Southside-Ashpole Elementary in Robeson County is the only school in the Innovative School District. Over a long period of time only one school was chosen and that will be run by a for-profit charter school company – Achievement for All Children.
Per Lynn Bonner and T. Keung Hui of the News & Observer last October:
A company tied to a wealthy Libertarian donor who helped pass a state law allowing takeover of low-performing North Carolina schools is trying to win approval to operate those schools.
Achievement For All Children was among the groups who applied for state approval to run struggling schools that will be chosen for the Innovative School District. Achievement For All Children is heavily connected to Oregon resident John Bryan, who is a generous contributor to political campaigns and school-choice causes in North Carolina.
The company was formed in February and registered by Tony Helton, the chief executive officer of TeamCFA, a charter network that Bryan founded. The board of directors for Achievement for All Children includes former Rep. Rob Bryan, a Republican from Mecklenburg County who introduced the bill creating the new district, and Darrell Allison, who heads the pro-school choice group Parents For Educational Freedom in North Carolina (http://amp.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article178169451.html) .
Now, to be able to bypass any negativity associated with hiring a for-profit company, the new budgt wil allow the ISD to be run by … the ISD.
7. Virtual charter schools pilot extended from four years to eight.
North Carolina has two virtual charter schools. Both are considered very low-performing. Now both will get another four years. Maybe they could be put into the next selection round for the ISD district.
8. Even financing a charter school.