The General Assembly recently wrapped up the longest legislative session in 14 years, and did so in a fashion appropriate for this year’s edition — working almost two days non-stop.
It is surprising that it took eight months for the Republican-led Senate and the Republican-led House to come up with a two-year spending plan that would earn the signature of a Republican governor, but it did. It became clear early on that the Senate wanted a more thrifty budget than did the House, both sides wnt to their corner, and in the end compromises were made, which is how government typically operates.
As always is the case, education garnered the largest headlines and the Republicans, for reasons we don’t fully understand, stepped right in front of the firing squad.
For months, Republicans allowed talk that teacher assistants would not be fully funded, but they were. For months, Republicans allowed talk that the state would no longer fund driver’s education, but it was. And this week, Republicans allowed talk that some money for school lunches for poor children would be transferred to charter schools, but it wasn’t.
Many North Carolinians, even some who are well-informed, believed for months that education funding was going to be cut — and drastically — but it wasn’t. There is $11.5 billion for education in the $21.7 billion budget, the most ever allocated and a $400 million boost over last year, and it includes a pay raise for early teachers and a $750 bonus for all of them.
While there are other considerations when calculating if education funding is adequate, such as inflation and a growing number of students, it would take a partisan perspective to conclude that the Republican budget was hostile to our state’s public schools, community colleges and universities.
It is important as well to know that while North Carolina ranks in the mid-40s among the 50 states for per-pupil spending, this tail can’t be honestly pinned on legislators. North Carolina actually ranks in the top 15 in per-pupil funding from the state government, but plummets in those rankings because most school districts don’t receive much help on the local level.
We understand that local governments have few options when trying to raise money for education, so it can be honestly argued that North Carolina lawmakers should be more generous in funding. Such an honest conversation on education would be new and refreshing.
— The Robesonian, Lumberton