You may have heard that state lawmakers have been butting heads over next year’s budget. You may even have an idea that the conflict has something to do with teacher pay and funding for education. But beyond that, it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on over on Jones Street.
Here’s the low-down on what’s happening right now in the NC General Assembly:
- Lawmakers disagree on how much to spend on teacher pay. $108 million of the proposed 2014 – 2015 budget goes to teacher and principal salaries– and although this may sound like a lot of money, it matches spending in other categories.
- The Senate and House disagree on how to balance the budget. A Senate plan drops teacher assistants and ends teacher tenure while giving state educators an 11% raise. The House, meanwhile, favors a proposal that grants a 5% pay raise but maintains teacher assistants and tenure.
- Both the House and the Senate want to increase school funding from lottery sales. To accomplish this, the budget proposals include an increase in lottery advertising. Experts disagree on how much increased lottery sales could add to state coffers. Most recent numbers show that with extra advertising, the lottery could increase its sales by $30 million, a number that wouldn’t even come close to covering the $223 million the Senate plans to cut in teacher assistant pay.
- Good teachers are leaving North Carolina. Our state pays some of the lowest teacher salaries in the country, and our state political climate is increasingly hostile to educators. Some teachers have decided to drive over the border to South Carolina to receive a $10,000 raise, while others are setting off for Houston and beyond.
- Students are suffering. North Carolina is underfunding its pre-k program, causing thousands of needy kids to enter kindergarten already at a disadvantage. Once they hit primary school, at-risk children will enter classrooms with too many students and underpaid teachers, in schools that lack arts, gifted, and special education programs.
- North Carolina’s reputation is at risk. Although our state was once heralded as home of some of the nation’s best public education, the tide has turned against us. National media outlets including the Washington Post frequently report on the disarray of our educational funding.
- No one knows what will happen next. The General Assembly could solve the budget impasse tomorrow, or it could drag on until Christmas. State workers and teachers could see increased paychecks as early as August, or they might not see them at all. At this point, it’s all up for grabs.
Are you frustrated with the way teachers are being treated in NC? Write a letter to your local newspaper or your elected official. When you send your letter, be sure to send it to me at info@WomenAdvanceNC.org and let me know if I can publish your letter here at Women AdvaNCe. We’d love to hear what’s on your mind, and how you’d solve the current crisis.