2017-2019 Biennium Budget Process Primer
In North Carolina, two-year budgets are created in odd years. The process begins early in an odd-numbered year, when the governor, as the director of the state budget, develops a set of spending priorities based on state agency requests and recommendations. This is presented to the General Assembly.
Legislators consider this roadmap and present their own budget priorities in the spring. The House and Senate alternate being the first chamber to introduce a budget plan for the biennium. A budget plan has two parts, a budget bill and a money report.
After the first chamber produces and passes a budget, the second may either take that bill up or introduce and pass its own budget bill. That is usually the case. Also usually, the first chamber does not pass the second chamber’s bill, so the differences between the two budgets are reconciled in a conference committee consisting of both House and Senate members. Finally, each chamber agrees to the conference budget and sends it to the governor.
The General Assembly’s budget is theoretically presented to the governor by the end of the fiscal year on June 30th, but in reality often later in the summer. The governor may sign the budget into law; ignore it, in which case it becomes law after 10 days; or veto it and send it back to the General Assembly.
In the second year of the biennium – in other words, in even years – the governor proposes budget adjustment recommendations. The legislative budget process then continues in much the same manner with both chambers making their own budget plans, but it is usually shorter, hence our General Assembly’s Long and Short Sessions.
This is the Senate’s turn to create the first legislative biennium budget, so Senate leaders released their plan at midnight on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, less than 12 hours before the Senate Appropriations, Base Budget Committee met to discuss it. The full chamber passed the bill at 3:08AM on May 12. The Senate budget bill, SB257, and the money report form the budget. Among other things, it:
- Raises teacher pay by an average of 3.7%, with starting salary still at $35,000 and our most veteran teachers receiving no increase. (More here.)
- Funds principal and assistant principal raises with $28M and almost $34M in the second year with the money coming from lottery proceeds (More here)
- Provides LEA employees with raises of 1.5% or $750, whichever is greater
- Funds an Average Daily Membership increase of 9,120 students for the coming year
- Adds almost 1,200 new pre-K slots each year, ending with enough spots for roughly a third of the average annual waiting list of 7,000 known-eligible children
- Makes the three teacher bonus pilot programs – Third Grade Reading Teachers, AP/IB Teachers, and CTE Teacher Bonuses – begun last year recurring, although no results are in from those pilots. Also extends the AP/IB and CTE Teacher bonuses to charter school teachers retroactively for 2016-17
- Reduces NC DPI’s operating funds by 25%, but gives the superintendent $300,000 for his ongoing lawsuit against the State Board of Education and funds 5 new positions that will report directly to him
- Cuts four positions employed by the State Board of Education
- Creates Educational Savings Accounts for students with disabilities (the same way our voucher program began) with $450K in the first year and $1M in the second. The program will give up to $9,000 in tax money directly to parents for educational expenses annually. Certain families may be eligible to receive both an ESA and a voucher! The budget allows for a private firm to manage the accounts and another to audit the program. (More here.)
- Funds the proposed STEM/Special Ed Teaching Fellows program. (You can compare Gov. Cooper’s proposal, this plan, and the original Teaching Fellows program here.)
- Turns driver’s ed program, which is currently offered for free or for a nominal charge, into a voucher system that will reimburse eligible students up to $275 for “a public or private driver education course”
- Adds $11M to textbook funding, which falls far short of the $48M increase requested by the State Board of Education
- Reduces central office funding by 10.5% in the first year and almost 16% in the second
- (As amended) Eliminates the Governor’s School, a summer program for gifted high school students that has particularly benefitted talented students from low wealth counties, in the second year and creates the Legislative School for Leadership & Public Service instead. The funding is taken by further cutting UNC Centers & Institutes
- School performance grades remain 80% achievement and 20% growth and use a ten-point scale for letter grades. Also, NC DPI will have to create a webpage for each school that “prominently displays the school’s performance grade” and whether it met or exceed growth
- The definition of a low-performing school is: “an overall school performance grade of D or F and a school growth score of ‘met expected growth’ or ‘not met expected growth'”
Codifies the ban on school boards suing counties
- Closes the Wright School, a residential mental health center and school for students with emotional and behavioral disorders
- Provides additional funding for the New Teacher Support Program
- Increases the Opportunity Scholarship budget by $20M in the first year and $30M in the second year of the biennium
- Denies future employees, including teachers, state pension (in favor of 401K plans) and state employee health benefits upon retirement, damaging our ability to recruit new teachers
The Department of Public Instruction has a useful spreadsheet available for download that compares Gov. Cooper’s proposal with the Senate’s adopted budget, including comparisons of the salary and benefit packages and pay schedules for teachers and principals.
Keep checking this page for more developments as the biennium budget process continues!
2016-17 Budget Passed
The budget devised by House and Senate negotiators to reconcile the differences between their respective chamber plans was released late on Monday, June 27. The Senate passed the measure Wednesday, June 29, and the House on Friday, July 1. The budget comprises two documents: the conference budget bill and the conference money report.
Here are some highlights:
- Raises teacher salary by an average of 4.7%. The teacher salary schedule will restore annual step increases for teachers in years 0-14, at year 15 salary will stay the same for next 10 years.
- Raises average teacher salaries to over $50,000 in 2016-17 and $55,000 over the next three years.
- School administrators receive step increase and a 1.5% increase to base salaries
- Non-certified school personnel receive a 1.5% salary increase.
- School administrators and noncertified personnel will also receive a one-time 0.5% bonus.
- There is a pilot program for rewarding third grade teachers. Teachers who are in the top 25% in the state for EVAAS student growth index scores in reading will share $5 million. Teachers who are in the top 25% of their LEAs for the same score will share $5 million, and teachers who fall in both categories will receive both bonuses.
- The state’s voucher program will expand by an extra $10 million and 2,000 students every year until 2027-2028 when spending will plateau at $144.8 million per year. The budget also expands the percentage of money that can go to Kindergarten and 1st grade recipients, from 35% to 40% of what remains after prior recipients are enrolled.
- The school performance grade formula will not change from 80% test scores, 20% growth to 50/50 as the House proposed, and the 15-point scale will remain for the next three years.
- The budget codifies maximum class sizes for the earliest grades. The funded class size ratios are: Kindergarten 1:18; 1st grade 1:16; and 2nd and 3rd grade 1:17.
- A provision in the Senate budget that would have changed the schedules of year-round schools was omitted.
- The budget funds 260 new pre-K slots at a cost of $1.325 million. For reference, there are more than 7,000 children on the state’s pre-K waiting list. The governor and the House both proposed spending $4 million to fill 800 spots.
- The percentage of virtual charter school teachers who must live in state decreases from 90% to 80%. The budget also changes the way students who withdraw are counted under the withdrawal rate cap of 25%, creating four new exceptions. For instance a student who withdraws for “a family, personal, or medical reason” and who notifies the school would not count as a withdrawal under the cap.
2016-17 Senate Budget Plan Passed
The NC Senate released its $22.2 billion budget plan just before midnight on Tuesday, May 31. Chamber leaders were, as planned, able to pass the 187-page bill that features faster tax cuts than the House plan just over 48 hours later, at 12:05 Friday, June 3. Read the full measure here and the Appropriations Committee report on it here.
The Senate budget proposal includes teacher raises, which the News & Observer compared to the House plan:
HOW THE TEACHER PAY PLANS COMPARE
Starting salary: Remains at $35,000 in both the House and Senate plans
Five years of experience: 4.1 percent raise in House plan; 4.8 percent raise in Senate plan
10 years of experience: 5 percent raise in House plan; 6.25 percent raise in Senate plan
15 years of experience: 3.4 percent raise in House plan; 7.5 percent raise in Senate plan
20 years of experience: 3.2 percent raise in House plan; 3.8 percent raise in Senate plan
25 years of experience: 2 percent raise in House plan; no raise in Senate plan
The Senate budget provides $27.1 million to reduce second grade class size to 1:16 ratio, which is just one fewer student per classroom. At the same time, the upper chamber followed the House’s lead in making lottery money the sole source of non-instructional support funds. Senate budget writers also put almost double the money in the state’s rainy day fund, just about $600 million, while cutting DPI’s budget by $2.2 million and LEA central office funding by $5 million. In addition – or subtraction, really – the budget eliminates $10 million for school connectivity and $4.8 million for at-risk students. The Senate slightly increased textbook funding (to $9.25 million) but uses one-time, rather than recurring, funds to do so. All told, funding for K-12 public education would remain 8% below pre-Recession levels, adjusted for inflation.
Oddly, the Senate budget incorporates SB862’s “forward funding” for the voucher program into the budget itself. It creates the proposed reserve and funds it based on the program’s expansion of 2,000 additional students per year. NC Policy Watch calculates that would entail giving 112,892 vouchers out annually in just ten years. The reserve provision will cost $170 million more than current voucher funding plans would in just the next 5 years.
2016-17 House Budget Passed
The House budget includes small teacher pay raises. They average 3% but are structured so that teachers in the middle of their careers get more than new or veteran teachers. Those teachers would get bonuses of $1,000, paid throughout the year, rather than salary increases. Those bonuses would however, count toward retirement. The main budget writer for the House, Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) stated that “the House’s goal is to see us be at or above the average teacher salary for the Southeast.” This is a lower goal than seeking to reach the national average, and we are currently 9th out of the 12 Southeastern states.
The NCAE has more highlights of the education budget:
- Provides $46.8 million for enrollment growth of nearly 5,900 students.
- Replaces $57.3 million in General Fund dollars with lottery money to pay for non-instructional support personnel. This area is now fully-supported by lottery funds, which should be used to enhance education funding, not supplant current General Fund spending on schools.
- Provides $25 million for literacy coaches to support Read to Achieve, but would mean elimination of the first-grade class size reduction passed last year and reduction in reading camp funds.
- Provides $11.6 million in one-time funds for textbooks and digital materials. We would remain about 34 percent below pre-recession levels.
- Provides $5 million in one-time funds for instructional supplies. We would remain about 50 percent below pre-recession levels.
- Provides $1.3 million to reinstate funding for salary supplements to instructional coaches who have earned National Board Certification.
- Provides $5.8 million in additional private school voucher funds for Special Education Scholarship grants.
- Provides $1.1 million for a differentiated pay pilot similar to Project LIFT in Charlotte.
- Provides $4.3 million for $50 dollar bonuses for Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate teachers for each student who scores highly on exams or CTE teachers whose students pass industry certifications.
- Provides $2 million in the university budget for a N.C. Scholarship for Teacher Advancement and Retention program similar to the N.C. Teaching Fellows program previously eliminated.
- Modifies A-F letter grading system of schools from 80 percent performance and 20 percent growth to 50-50. It would also keep the 15-point system in place.
- In addition, Health & Human Services budget writers approved spending $4 million more to fund an additional 800 pre-K slots.
You can also see NC DPI’s comparison of the governor’s proposal and the House budget here.
2016-17 Budget Proposals
The State Board of Education released a set of budget priorities in March 2016 that aim to make NC number one for teacher pay in the Southeast. Currently, we are 9th out of the 12 states.
Gov. McCrory’s budget proposal, released in April, is too modest to achieve that. It includes some teacher pay raises, however those largely come in the form of one-time bonuses for teachers rather than permanent pay raises. It also continues per pupil funding below pre-Recession levels when adjusted for inflation.
The NC House Education Appropriations subcommittee released its budget report and special provisions proposal on May 12, 2016. It does not include funding for teacher pay increases as the writers say they will add that to the budget further along in the process. It increases reliance on lottery funds rather than paying expenses out of the General Fund. It also cuts funds for smaller first grade class sizes in order to add money for literacy coaches, and the extra money it provides for textbooks and digital learning resources is in the form of one-time only payments.
The Senate budget proposal, released just before midnight on Tuesday May 31, is described above.
Don’t forget, you can keep up with the status of all of the bills that affect our public schools here!
2015-17 NC Biennial Budget
After enacting two continuing budget resolutions, House and Senate leaders reached a final budget agreement on September 18, shortly after midnight. Governor McCrory signed the budget bill (House 97) later the same day. The budget includes a total spending amount of $21.735 billion, which is a 3.1 percent increase over the previous budget.
Over all the budgets keeps recession-era levels of investment in education while our student population and costs are increasing. Further cuts to state revenue were also implemented this session.
Earning potential is low for teachers because their salaries are capped at about $50,000 (an increase of only $15,000 over their entire career). The national average ending salary, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality is around $76,000.
- Read our fact sheet, The Impact of the 2015-17 State Budget or our Quick Facts for additional information and links to other budget resources.
- Access a presentation from the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division to understand how public schools are funded.
- The NC DPI presented a list of the 2015 Relevant Laws Passed. (Here)
- Historical per pupil funding: 2008-09 to 2015-16. (Here)
|Teacher Pay||25th in U.S.||41st in U.S.|
|Teacher Career Status||Yes||No (except for those who have already earned it)|
|Salary Supplement for Master’s Degree||Yes||No|
|NC Teaching Fellows Program||Yes||No|
|Class Size Capped (grades 4-12)||Yes||No|
|Per Pupil Expenditure||$5,896||$5,744|
|Total Education Budget||$8.706 B||$8.878 B|
2015-16 Budget Highlights
The new biennial budget highlights are below (see budget bill here). It is also helpful to review the results of the 2013-15 budget below to better understand the national rankings assigned NC for teacher pay and per pupil funding.
- Increases school vouchers by $6.8 million in 2015-16 and $14 million in 2016-17, a total increase of 129% over 2014-15 funding level. Total dollars available for 2015-16 is $17.6 million and $24.8 million for 2016-17.
- New beginning teachers will be paid $35,000 (an increase from $33,000).
- All State employees/school personnel receive a one-time $750 bonus (includes central office staff). The salary steps (tiers) are the same as 2014-15 and will be funded for teachers and principals/assistant principals.
- There is no change to master’s and other advanced degree pay. If you had a master’s or other advanced degree or had completed one class prior to August 1, 2013, you are grandfathered under rules in place prior to that date. Master’s and other advanced degree pay will always be allowed if your job requires it.
- Teacher Assistants are funded at the 2014-15 levels, but funds must be used for teacher assistants only with all flexibility for the funds being eliminated effective this school year. Funds 15,300 TA positions, about 7,000 less than 2008.
- Teacher support will now be funded from general funds (not lottery funds) and non-instructional support personnel funded from lottery funds (no longer from general funds).
- Class size for first grade classes is reduced to 1:16 for 2016-17; an additional $27 million is allocated for additional teachers.
- Textbook and digital resources increased by $21.8 million for 2015-16 and by $31 million for next year (currently funded at ~$24 million).
- Funds driver’s education for 2015-2016 (general fund) and 2016-2017 (civil penalty and forfeiture fund). School districts can charge up to $65 per student to fund driver’s education. School districts must reduce fee for students who prove economic hardship.
- A decrease of 5,400 Pre-K slots since 2008; a waiting list remains.
2016 Pending Legislation
Read an overview of pending education bills for the 2016 legislative session.
2013-15 NC Biennial Budget
The passage of the 2013-15 state budget dealt a powerful and immediate blow to North Carolina’s public schools. It is helpful to see the funding levels and staff cuts made two years ago as you consider the new biennial budget’s allocations. Some increases this year are restoring monies lost two years ago and many funding cuts have been restored. Some of the key actions are below.
- Teacher career status was terminated by legislators but a June 2015 ruling from the NC Appeals Court said that ending teacher career status for educators who have already earned that status was unconstitutional. Career status protects teachers from being fired arbitrarily (without due process). Yet, teachers who have yet to earn career status are effectively temporary employees and are given only one-year contracts. Beginning in 2016, teachers without career status can be offered one, three or four-year contracts.
- Caps annual teacher salaries at $50,000. A certified teacher with a bachelor’s degree would earn $50,000 at 25 years of service. The U.S. average public school teacher salary is $58,000.
- Eliminated 5,184.5 teachers and 272 support personnel (guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, etc.) in 2013-14.
- Cut teacher assistant positions: 3,850 positions in 2013-14 and an additional 3,300 in 2014-15.
- Major Public Education Item Comparisons of Budget (House, Senate, Final)
- Table of Contents for State Budget (HB97)
- Proposed Conference Committee Substitute for House Bill 97, 2015 Appropriations Act
- The Joint Conference Committee Report on the Base, Expansion and Capital Budgets, for House Bill 97
- General Assembly Fiscal Research Division Comparison Report: House and Senate proposed budgets
- Proposed Senate committee substitute for House Bill 97 (Senate budget bill)
- Senate Appropriations Committee on Education/Higher Education Report on the Continuation and Expansion Budgets (the “Money Report”)
- House Bill 97, 2015 Appropriations Act
- House Appropriations Committee on Education: Report on the Continuation and Expansion budgets (the “Money Report”)