MEDIA RELEASE: As recovery funds run out, government must recommit to supporting public education

RALEIGH (April 30, 2012) – As the last federal recovery funds supporting public education in North Carolina run out, a larger share of responsibility for funding public education must shift back to state government, says a new report. In accepting this responsibility, lawmakers must recommit to maintaining and increasing the capacity of North Carolina’s schools to fairly and adequately serve its growing K-12 student population.

Starting in fiscal year 2012-13, almost all federal recovery funds supporting public education through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in North Carolina will have been spent, creating a looming budget gap for public schools across the state, said a report released this morning by the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. To avoid further disinvestment in K-12 public education, a larger share of the responsibility for funding public education must subsequently shift back to the state government, where it has historically resided.

Lawmakers approved the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to ease the impact of the Great Recession on communities across the country. Since 2009, policymakers have been able to use federal funds to support public education as state and local revenue collections plummeted in the wake of the Great Recession. These funds were intentionally used to supplant state General Fund appropriations to ensure some level of continuity and quality educational experience for children in the classroom and during and after the recession, the report said.

With the exception of approximately $255 million in federal Education Jobs money, all ARRA funding for public education had been expended by the end of fiscal year 2010-11, the report said. BTC analysis of data on K-12 education expenditures for federal recovery dollars shows that 92 percent of all funds available to North Carolina under ARRA for public education – a total of $1.47 billion – was used to pay public school salaries and benefits, including salaries and benefits for thousands of teachers. Despite this important role, personnel at North Carolina’s public schools have been reduced significantly since the start of the Great Recession.

“This suggests that although federal recovery money was available and lawmakers raised temporary taxes, both measures still fell short of adequately funding public education over the course of the Great Recession,” said Brenna Burch, public policy analyst with the Budget & Tax Center and author of the report.

In order to adequately serve the state’s K-12 population, lawmakers must increase state appropriations to education in the upcoming budget year and beyond, the report said. When compared to state-only funding for education in recent years, this will look like a sizeable increase but in the context of total spending from all sources – state, federal, and local – it will keep pace with growth in the student population if done responsibly.

“More importantly, this funding is necessary to continue North Carolina’s investment in long-term economic prosperity – namely, the education and development of our future workforce,” Burch said.

The report can be found at this link.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brenna Burch, Public Policy Analyst, Budget & Tax Center, Brenna@ncjustice.org, 919.856.2177; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, NC Justice Center, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).