Low-wealth school districts in North Carolina would get a significant boost from Gov. Michael F. Easley’s proposed state budget, the Democrat announced in his State of the State Address last week. The measure could resolve the state’s long-running school finance lawsuit.
The state would also try to unify various programs for at-risk students and increase accountability for how districts can use the money, the governor said.
The state has been struggling since 2001 to satisfy a judge’s order in the 11-year-old finance suit. Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard E. Manning has ordered the state to provide additional money to its poorest districts to help them attract, train, and keep qualified teachers. (“N.C. Governor Sends Aid to Needy Schools,” Oct. 20, 2004.)
“We cannot pretend that low-wealth and at-risk schools are not a problem,” Mr. Easley said in his Feb. 22 speech. “And it cannot be solved by a judge’s decision or my executive order. To have a fair shake, these disadvantaged kids need the power, the commitment, and the compassion of this General Assembly.”
In his budget proposal, released Feb. 23, Mr. Easley called for $9.8 billion for education for the 2006 and 2007 fiscal years, $532 million, or nearly 6 percent increase over the current biennium.
The proposal includes money to expand high school improvement efforts as well. High school students would, for example, be able to earn an associate’s degree by completing one additional year of school under his plan to raise the state graduation rate. The Learn and Earn pilot program, as the initiative is called, would be expanded statewide over the next four years.
Another of Gov. Easley’s proposals would team community colleges with four-year institutions to offer teacher education programs throughout the state in an effort to ease the state’s growing teacher shortage.
A version of this article appeared in the March 02, 2005 edition of Education Week