MEDIA RELEASE: North Carolina’s funding for schools much lower than before recession

Cuts harm efforts to educate North Carolina’s future workforce, finds a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

RALEIGH (October 16, 2014) — North Carolina has deeply cut school funding since the start of the recession. These funding cuts have increasingly required public schools to educate more students with fewer resources. Waning support for public education by state lawmakers fails to ensure that all North Carolina students are afforded a high-quality education and are prepared to compete in a dynamic 21st century economy built around innovation and creativity.

North Carolina cut state investment in K-12 schools by more than 13 percent from 2008 to 2012, a deeper cut than 38 other states, according to a new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C. State and local spending per-student dropped nearly 20 percent in the Tar Heel state between 2008 and 2012.

“Education spending cuts have undermined our ability to educate North Carolina’s children – the next generation of American workers,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the NC Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center. “Unless we reverse course, there will be negative consequences for our economy.”

State revenue declined sharply during the recession. But instead of addressing budget shortfalls by taking a balanced approach that includes new revenues, North Carolina relied heavily on cuts to state services, including education. North Carolina is one of 20 states that continued to cut education funding for fiscal year 2015, even as the economy recovers, leaving spending per student $855 below pre-recession levels, taking inflation into account. For the current school year, general school funding per student decreased by 4.7 percent compared to the prior school year, making the state second only to Nevada in terms of funding cuts, the report finds.

Many schools across North Carolina are trying to implement proven reforms – such as reducing class sizes, improving teacher quality, increasing learning time, and expanding early education – to strengthen their schools and better educate students. These improvements cost money and deep funding cuts undermine their efforts. In fact, state spending cuts have forced many schools to move in the wrong direction.

North Carolina’s 2015 budget spends $7.7 billion for public schools when excluding funding for teacher pay raises, which is typically included in a different section of the budget. Accordingly, state spending for K-12 education falls $277.2 million short of what is needed to maintain the same levels for the 2012-13 school year, according to a recent report from the Budget & Tax Center. Due to the state’s 2013 tax plan, there are too few dollars available to meet the needs of students, and new spending initiatives – such as raising pay for teachers – came at the expense of investments in other areas. Lawmakers cut $109 million for teacher assistants and chose to not reinstate the Teaching Fellows Program. Funding to provide support services to at-risk students was cut by $9 million and the equivalent of 60 cents per student was included in the budget for school textbooks, an amount that is not enough to even buy a bookmark.

Reducing investment in schools has long-term economic consequences. Quality elementary, middle, and high school education provides a crucial foundation that allows children to go on to succeed in college, the workplace, and as engaged citizens.

“At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, states should be investing more — not less — to ensure our kids get a strong education,” said Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and co-author of the report.

The Center’s full report can be found at: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4213.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Alexandra Forter Sirota, Alexandra@ncjustice.org; Julia Hawes, julia@ncjustice.org.
 

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