A New Era for Education in North Carolina
WNCT Greenville, February 2016
Carolina Journal, September 2015
WRAL Raleigh, June 2015
National Education Association “School Statistics,” March 2013
Education Reforms Offer Students Real Solutions
K-12 Spending, Scholarships and Teacher Salaries Rise in 2016
North Carolina’s spending on K-12 education rose by $400 million per year in the 2015-2017 budget biennium – almost a billion dollars more than the previous cycle. Starting teacher pay was raised again to $35,000 per year, putting new teachers in North Carolina at a competitive starting salary compared to the national average.
Lawmakers doubled funding for Opportunity Scholarships in 2015, sending thousands more low-income students to excellent schools through an innovative school choice program recently upheld by the N.C. Supreme Court.
So inputs are up – what about outcomes?
AFP-Foundation NC State Director Donald Bryson
Did You Know?
Homeschool students outnumber private school students in North Carolina, while charter and public school enrollment growth outpace national averages.
Education reforms since 2011
Despite a massive budget shortfall in 2011, 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 public education funding increased from $7.15 billion in the 2010-11 school year, to $7.5 billion in 2011-12.
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.i 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.ii
After eliminating the arbitrary 100-school cap, 127 charter schools now exist in North Carolina, with dozens more having received approval from the State Board of Education and scheduled for opening.
With passage of a special needs tax credit, North Carolina became only the 14th state in the nation to approve school choice legislation. 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 were able to enroll their children in the educational facility that met their needs best.iii
2013 Education Reform
Continuing on the path of increasing educational freedom for North Carolina families, the General Assembly and Governor McCrory created two school choice programs, in 2013.
Special Education Scholarship Grants for Children with Disabilities
In order to move the program out of the way of robust tax reform, the tax credit for children with disabilities was converted into a scholarship grant program. Scholarship-grants can be claimed up to $3,000 per semester ($6,000 per school year) and may be used for private school tuition and special education services.
North Carolina joined just a few states with the creation of a statewide voucher program. This program gives school vouchers to students from low-income families, to attend private school. Vouchers are given in amounts up to $4,200 per year, not to exceed the privateschool’s actual tuition and fees. The vouchers may be used for tuition, transportation, equipment, or any other items required by qualifying private schools.v
In 2013, North Carolina became the latest state to reform its teacher tenure laws. Tenure is defined as, “guaranteed permanent employment, especially as a teacher or professor, after a probationary period.”vi
Under new state law, passed in 2013, school systems were directed offer four-year contracts to top performers but one- or two-year contracts to everybody else. This new policy was in direct contrast to the previously existing tenure law that essentially guaranteed permanent employment to teachers after five years.
While the previous teacher employment policy made it very difficult to terminate low performing, and sometimes bad, teachers, this new law rewards high performing teachers and allows those decisions to be made at the local level.