NC House Budget Addresses School Report Cards, But Not Teacher Pay

The NC House of Representatives released its version of the state budget today with several important initiatives that were not found in the Senate version of the budget, but there’s no language in the bill about pay for teachers, principals and assistant principals.

Perhaps the most important language in the budget is the way school performance grades are calculated. The changes are being caused the rules in the federal Every Student Achieves Act (ESSA). Advocacy groups including WakeEd urged changes to a more comprehensive report card that measured growth and achievement separately. The House has done just that. If their version of the budget in this area is adopted, school performance reports will show both a letter grade and a point average separately for growth and achievement.

There’s no new spending for elementary school “program enhancement” teachers in the arts, physical education and world languages. This became an issue when last year’s budget limited K-3 class sizes to 16-18 students based on the grade level. The cost of adding enough teachers to meet those standards may have led to the reduction of program enhancement teachers, according to local school officials.

The fact that the budget doesn’t include any additional funding this year for program enhancement teachers is not a surprise. The House and Senate had both agreed to a spending limit of $22.9 billion, and money for education can only come from the education budget. Adding funds in this category would mean a cut in another category.

Wake Rep. Rosa Gill, a former WCPSS school board member, did propose an amendment which ultimately failed in the House Education Appropriations Committee today that would’ve shifted money from the private school voucher program known as Opportunity Scholarships to help pay for class size reduction. The amendment did reveal that the voucher program is overfunded, however.

The House budget is silent on compensation for teachers, principals and assistant principals. Representatives promise those details by Tuesday when the whole budget reached the House floor for a series of final votes. The Senate’s budget focused raises on mid-career teachers while leaving first-year teachers flat at $35,000 and teachers with 25-plus years at $51,000, excluding any local supplements. The Senate budget also proposed a completely new way to pay principals based on school enrollment and school growth performance, while assistant principals would earn 13% above the teacher scale.

For education stakeholders in Wake County, it’s very important to watch the flow of all budgets in the next few weeks.

  • President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would drastically reduce federal funding for public education and for Medicare, which pays for a great deal of educational programs for children with disabilities. Any president’s budget is merely a policy statement. Congress actually drafts the bill. It could all or nothing of the president’s proposal.
  • The state budget has implications on how money is spent by school districts in many ways that can cause some upheaval in teaching and central office staff positions. Which parts from the House and Senate versions of the budget make it into the final bill are important to watch.
  • The Wake County budget is suggesting an increase of $16 million in new spending when WCPSS had requested $45.2 million in additional funds.

Taken together there looks like a lot less money for public education for next school year and beyond. While politicians are wise to hold the line on tax spending – and even offer tax reductions to some – it is important to understand the cumulative effect of all these spending changes.

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