Budget blitz: running at warp speed in Raleigh

After last year’s long, drawn out discussions about a state budget, this year’s negotiations seem to be moving ahead at warp speed in the General Assembly. Two reasons: a lot of the hard stuff was ironed out in 2015, at least for this second year of the biennial budget, and it’s an election year, meaning many representatives and senators had rather be pressing the flesh than crunching numbers.

With the so-called (and apparently literal) short session a month old, the House of Representatives approved its budget Thursday. It totals $22.2 billion — an increase of just over 2 percent compared to the current year and a spending target agreed on with the Senate early on in the session.

The Senate says it expects to have a spending document ready in two weeks. Both are expected to include pay raises for teachers, as well as other state employees, with the two budgets differing primarily in how to allocate the raises and their amounts. Here are highlights of the House budget, as described by the N.C. School Board Association:
Overall: Including compensation increases, the House budget increases appropriations for K-12 public schools by 4.4% above the original spending target for 2016-17.
Raises:  Teachers with 5-25 years of experience receive an average 4.1% salary increase, with the largest increases going to mid-career teachers.  Other teachers will get a one-time $1,000 bonus.  Most school administrators will get an average 2% increase (with some receiving a $500 bonus).

Vouchers.  There is an increase of $5.8  million to the special education voucher program.

ADM Growth.  Public school ADM (average daily membership) growth is fully funded ($46.8 million).

Literacy Coaches.  There is an appropriation of $25 million to put K-3 Literacy Coaches in the lowest performing 20% of elementary schools across the state.  This would be the first State appropriation for literacy coaches in any public schools since the line-item was zeroed out in 2009.

Advanced Teaching Roles/Elevating Educators Act.  Modified language from last session’s Elevating Educators Act is included in the subcommittee’s approved budget.  This provision establishes a three-year pilot program where 10 LEAs would experiment with models of differentiated pay for teachers linked to advanced teaching roles (new or additional roles and responsibilities).  There would be a $1 million set aside for this pilot.

A-F School Performance Grades.  The formula for calculating A-F letter grades for schools is changed from 80% assessment scores 20% growth to a 50-50 split between the two components.  The 15-point scale is also made permanent (it is scheduled to end with this year’s set of grades).

Read to Achieve.  Like last year’s House budget, this year’s House budgets contains several provisions to improve the Read to Achieve program.  Among these would be a requirement for the SBE to expand the types of diagnostic and formative assessments school districts could use to measure reading progress in grades K-3.

Other Funding Increases.  Digital Learning Plan ($9.4 million); Textbooks/Digital Resources ($11.7 million)

Here are additional links to stories on the House budget:

From EdNC https://www.ednc.org/2016/05/20/house-budget-passes-moves-senate/

From WRAL http://www.wral.com/proposed-22-2b-state-budget-clears-house/15714181/

From the News & Observer Compared to 2015, North Carolina budget talks looking simpler