In K-12 Education
Real solutions provided by the North Carolina General Assembly are already working in our classrooms. By adding state funding for teaching positions, and increasing the amount of time children spend in the classroom these real solutions are protecting the classroom, reforming education and protecting taxpayers.
Every year, the state budget provides approximately two-thirds of the funding used to operate North Carolina’s public schools.1 In 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly increased the K-12 education budget for the current school year to $7.46 billion2 while balancing North Carolina’s state budget. The sky did not fall; these were real solutions for North Carolina.
Going into the legislative session a number of challenges confronted legislators, but these challenges did not stop them from crafting a budget that acknowledged fiscal realities and advanced long overdue public school reforms.
The anticipated end of federal stabilization or “stimulus” funding produced a significant drop in federally funded education personnel.3 The state budget approved in 2011 was able to compensate for most of the decline in federally funded positions by adding over 2,000 state-funded public schools jobs, an increase of 3.7 percent from the previous year.4 For those with the newly funded jobs, these were real solutions.
Moreover, state officials estimate that over 13,000 additional students will enroll in North Carolina’s public schools over the next two years.5 The General Assembly allocated nearly $56 million this year, as well as over $137 million next year, to compensate for anticipated enrollment growth.6
Lawmakers also initiated a research-based effort to reduce class sizes in grades K-3.7 In the first year of this multi-year effort, the General Assembly appropriated nearly $62 million to fund 1,124 additional elementary school teaching positions.8 Legislators plan to increase funding to $63 million next year toward the ambitious goal of reducing class sizes to an average of one teacher for every 15 students.9 When the state reaches this goal, the average class sizes in North Carolina elementary schools will be lower than any other state in the nation.10
The General Assembly converted 5 teacher work days to teaching days. These reforms will enhance student achievement by increasing yearly instructional time to 185 days and 1,025 hours.11 North Carolina and Kansas are the only states that require more than 180 days in the school year and are two of seventeen states to require at least 1,025 hours of classroom instruction.12
Despite a massive budget shortfall and despite cries from critics that North Carolina would drop to 49th in the nation in per capita education spending North Carolina’s public schools are still up and running. In fact, North Carolina’s rank improved in education spending from 45th in the nation to 42nd, according to the National Education Association – the nation’s largest teacher’s union.
Of course, the state budget was only the start. The General Assembly also passed legislation that greatly expanded school choice options for families.
The General Assembly eliminated the arbitrary 100-school cap on public charter schools and permitted charter schools to increase enrollment by up to 20 percent a year.13 These welcomed changes to the state’s public charter school law will give more North Carolina families access to new charter schools and a greater chance of obtaining admission to existing charters, many of which have sizable waitlists for seats.14
With passage of a special needs tax credit, North Carolina became only the 14th state in the nation to approve school choice legislation.15 The law allows families to claim an individual income tax credit for education and services provided to children with disabilities – up to $6,000 per year. This law will save local school systems millions of dollars – almost $14 million in just the first five years. At long last, parents of special needs children can enroll their children in the educational facility that best meets their needs.16
Tar Heel families have been provided real educational solutions through the power of school choice.
The General Assembly’s reforms obtained through the 2011-2013 N.C. State Budget is providing North Carolinians with real solutions; and these reforms are working in our classrooms. These reforms are restoring local control, strengthening accountability standards, increasing the amount of time children are in the classroom, offering more school choices and adding state funded teaching positions.
Lower Taxes…More Teachers…Real Solutions for our children and our classrooms.
1NC Department of Public Instruction, Financial and Business Services, “Highlights of the North Carolina Public School Budget 2011,” February 2011, p. 3.
2Fiscal Research Division, NC General Assembly, “Education Subcommittee: FY 2011-13 Budget Highlights,” February 2012, p. 4.
3Terry Stoops, “Obama pushes NC public schools off the ‘funding cliff’,” John Locke Foundation, May 24, 2011.
4SOURCE: State funded positions in k-12 education had been reduced by previous budgets. In 2011 the new legislative majority increased total education spending by $400 million resulting in an increase of more than 2,000 state funded teaching positions: http://apps.schools.nc.gov/pls/apex/f?p=1:21:1650242906481166::NO:::
Also see: Kim Genardo, “Reality Check: How Did Budget Cuts Affect Teaching Jobs in 2011-12,” February 14, 2012.
Also see: Bob Luebke, “Behind the DPI School Personnel Numbers,” Civitas Institute, January 23, 2012.
5NC Department of Public Instruction, School Planning Division, “ADM Growth Analysis,” December 9, 2010, p.116.
6Fiscal Research Division, “Education Subcommittee: FY 2011-13 Budget Highlights,” p. 2.
7NC General Assembly, HB 200 (SL 2011-145, sec. 7.1B) Class Size Reduction for Grades 1-3. For a balanced review of the research literature on class size, see Grover J. Whitehurst and Matthew M. Chingos, “Class Size: What Research Says and What it Means for State Policy,” Brookings Institution, May 11, 2011. For findings related to Burke County (NC) Schools’ class size reduction initiatives in the early 1990s, see Paula Egelson, Patrick Harman, and Charles M. Achilles, “Does Class Size Make a Difference? Recent Findings from State and District Initiatives,” Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse, 1996.
8Fiscal Research Division, “Education Subcommittee: FY 2011-13 Budget Highlights,” p. 3.
10See Thomas D. Snyder and Sally A. Dillow, “Highest degree earned, years of full-time teaching experience, and average class size for teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state: 2007-08,” in Digest of Education Statistics 2010 (NCES 2011-015), National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, April 2011, p. 110.
11NC General Assembly, HB 200 (SL 2011-145, sec. 7.29) Increase Number of Instructional Days
12Melodye Bush, Molly Ryan and Stephanie Rose, “Number of Instructional Days/Hours in the School Year,” Education Commission of the States, August 2011.
13NC General Assembly, SB 8 (SL 2011-164) No Cap on the Number of Charter Schools
14Terry Stoops, “Charter School Checkmate: North Carolina’s Success Despite Institutionalized Opposition,” NC Family Policy Council, Family North Carolina Magazine, Summer 2010.
15American Federation for Children, “North Carolina Legislature Passes Bipartisan Special Needs Tax Credit Plan,” June 17, 2011.
16NC General Assembly, HB 344 (SL 2011-395) Tax Credits for Children with Disabilities