NC JUSTICE NEWS: Senate Budget + "Excellent Public Schools Act" + Falling Behind

June 12, 2012

SENATE BUDGET: Another disappointing path for NC

The North Carolina House budget proposal failed to fully restore cuts made to key public investments in last year’s budget, including education, health, public safety, and infrastructure. If the Senate proposed a budget similar to the House plan, critics warned, the damage done by last year’s budget would only continue and delay North Carolina’s recovery from the Great Recession.

Unfortunately, those fears came to fruition. Late Sunday evening, the Senate released a budget proposal that, if passed, would take North Carolina back even farther than the House budget. Together NC called an “embarrassment to North Carolina’s tradition of investment” in critical public structures. The proposal continues deep cuts to mental health, environmental protections, and public safety funds, and ignores the state’s most vulnerable residents. There will be fewer slots in NC Pre-K, the Medicaid shortfall will continue, and the state’s transportation budget will be slashed in order to increase General Fund availability. Worst of all, the Senate’s proposal ignores the loss of temporary federal dollars that currently support nearly 5,000 public school jobs.

The Senate’s proposal, like that of the House, relies heavily on one-time funds, suggesting our lawmakers are only willing to offer a short-sighted vision for the state’s future instead of creating a more competitive state with a higher quality of life for all North Carolinians.

"EXCELLENT" EDUCATION: Senate bill would fail our students

Logically, education policies for improving child literacy should be modeled after policies in states that perform best on early childhood literacy outcomes. Yet North Carolina is on the verge of doing the very opposite.

Senate Bill 795 (The "Excellent Public Schools Act) bears more than a striking resemblance to legislation passed in Florida that has so far failed to succeed in its goal. In 2002, Florida adopted a policy requiring that third graders who do not pass their end-of-grade reading tests would be forced to repeat the grade, except in a few narrowly defined situations. In the first year the policy was implemented, 13.2 percent of third graders were retained. This year, only 56 percent of Florida’s 3rd graders demonstrated proficiency on the end-of-year writing assignment, meaning that now almost half of all 3rd graders may have to repeat the year.

Florida decided to retain students solely on the basis of a single standardized test score, an act that can harm children for the rest of their lives. Such retention policies increase the dropout rate, affect students’ future job prospects, and fail to accomplish what the legislation set out to do: improve early childhood literacy.

This is not the path we want for North Carolina’s students. Lawmakers should consider other states’ records and policies before designing legislation that could affect the lives of our children and ultimately the future of the state.

FALLING BEHIND: How NC fares compared to before the recession

“Falling Behind”, a new series, shows how North Carolina’s most valuable resources have fared during the Great Recession – and how decisions made by state lawmakers have affected these public investments.

  • K-12 Education. Funding for K-12 education has declined by almost 10 percent over the last 5 years, even as enrollment has increased by more than 2 percent. The state’s disinvestment in education has led to teacher layoffs, stagnated salaries, and diminished teacher mentoring and professional development, meaning that North Carolina will struggle to attract the highest quality teachers.
  • Early childhood education. Funding for Smart Start, subsidized child care and NC Pre-K has failed to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for these early childhood programs. The population of children under 5 has increased by 2.3 percent even as state funding for child development and early childhood education dropped by nearly 30 percent.
  • Higher education. Community colleges can be instrumental during a recession in training workers and supporting economic development. Although community college enrollment has increased by 27 percent since the 2007-2008 fiscal year, investment to the system has declined.
  • Senior services. Approximately 1 in 10 seniors in North Carolina live in poverty and rely on supports offered by the Department of Health and Human Services, and yet funding has declined by approximately 3 percent since 2007. Given the future boom in population growth for adults over 65, this lack of funding will only grow.
  • Medicaid. Demand for Medicaid exploded during the Great Recession, as the number of individuals with sufficiently low incomes to be eligible grew by 27 percent between 2007 and 2012. At the same time, Medicaid was cut by 6 percent, leaving patients, doctors, hospitals and clinics with significantly reduced financial support.

BACKWARDS BUDGET .5K: Race for the backwards budget on 6/19

To raise awareness about the “Backwards Budget,” Together NC is convening the first annual Backwards Budget .5K! on Tuesday, June 19. Participants will race backwards around the Halifax Mall to shine a spotlight on the legislature’s backwards approach to the state budget.

The race begins at 12:00 p.m. in the grassy area on Halifax Mall behind the North Carolina General Assembly, at 301 N. Wilmington Street in Raleigh. Backwards Budget .5K T-Shirts will be available for all registered participants as will refreshments. Click here to register and for more information.

 

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