Education budget lacks necessary funding

Jennifer Barnes, Editorials Editor

One would think that in a society that regards education so highly, the education budget would be a top priority for local governments.  Instead, the North Carolina legislature seems to have missed the idea that in order for students to be properly educated, the state has to actually fund the education system’s endeavors.  Led by Governor Pat McCrory, the Republican-majority state House and Senate passed a new budget bill that McCrory claims has allotted the largest budget for education in the state’s history.  While that may be true in terms of absolute dollars, it is not true in terms of what that actually funds, which is what truly matters in the end.  In reality, the new education budget is not helping to advance the public education system at all–instead, it is detrimental.

McCrory’s claim that the new education budget is the largest in the state’s history only holds true when previous budgets are not adjusted for inflation.  According to NC Policy Watch, when the 2008 fiscal year K-12 public education budget of $7,714,429,569 is adjusted for inflation, it brings the amount up to $8,402,393,062 in terms of today’s money.  That is a grand total of over $500 million less allotted for K-12 public education this year, with the new 2014 fiscal year budget spending $7,867,960,649.

Not only is the new budget lower than previous years,  it also does not account for any of the student population growth that North Carolina has seen in recent years. In the 2010-2011 school year, there were 1,434,436 students enrolled in the NC Public School System in grades K-12.  By the 2012-2013 school year, this number had increased to 1,443,998 students.  That is an addition of 9,562 students to the system within two years.  It is simple logic that it would take a larger budget in order to educate a larger number of students, but instead the North Carolina education budget is moving in reverse.  Without an adequate education budget, school systems are unable to afford the basic necessities that students need.  Textbooks, classroom supplies, special education programs and teachers all end up with limited to no funding.  The new budget eliminates $77.4 million in textbook funding alone.  When schools are failing to successfully transfer over to technological resources, most of which are not being funded either, textbooks remain a vital resource in the classroom.

In order for the North Carolina education system to grow and prosper, and for students to get the most out of their compulsory education, North Carolina can not continue on its current path. During the 2007-2008 school year, North Carolina ranked 26 in the nation in terms of teacher pay.  Only 6 years later, during the 2012-2013 school year, North Carolina had dropped to 46 in the nation.  This is not the direction that North Carolina should be heading.

Already, the state has seen instances of talented and successful teachers relocating to work in other states in order to have an increase in pay over what they were making teaching in North Carolina.  Teaching is a full-time job–teachers should not have to work seperate jobs in order to make ends meet.  Under the new education budget, teachers no longer receive supplemental pay for holding a master’s degree or higher, leaving new teachers with little incentive to go back to school later and improve their skills.

There needs to be a bigger emphasis on education funding placed on the North Carolina legislature.  McCrory can not be allowed to get away with touting false information while putting the public education system at a disadvantage with a lack of funds needed to successfully educate students to their full potential.  Not only is it deliberately misleading, but it is an offence to the public education system.  The legislature needs to take notice and acknowledge the problems that they are creating.  The voices of students, teachers and parents across North Carolina need to be heard on the issues that are impacting them.