School Programs Win Big Increases in N.C.
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
State legislators approved millions of dollars in new funding in their session that wrapped up Aug. 2 for programs that will encourage school improvement projects, including $7 million in competitive grants to North Carolina schools that work to curb dropouts. The $7.71 billion K-12 education budget, part of a $20.7 billion state budget, is an increase of more than 7 percent over fiscal 2007. It provides $1.3 million for efforts to restructure seven high schools and $4.4 million for a pilot school improvement initiative in five districts.
Teachers in the Tar Heel State will get a 5 percent salary increase, and $70 million will be set aside for bonuses for educators in schools that meet or exceed state targets for student achievement. Those bonuses are a continuation of an incentive program that began more than a decade ago.
The budget relies on proceeds from the 1-year-old state lottery—with some $350 million in projected revenues dedicated to education—to pay for class-size reduction, the state’s pre-K program, school construction, and college scholarships.
Despite heavy lobbying from education and community groups, the legislature did not take up a $2 billion bond proposal for school construction projects. Many lawmakers consider the issue of school construction resolved, given the large pot of lottery proceeds that helps pay for such projects, according to an analysis of the legislative session by the Public School Forum of North Carolina.
But the forum, a Raleigh-based research organization, argues that school construction is still an urgent need. The group cites record-high school enrollments—up by 91,000 students since 2000, for a total of 1.4 million children in public schools statewide—along with a class-size-reduction initiative and many deteriorating facilities.
Vol. 26, Issue 45, Page 21