Legislators and the governor should make protecting primary and secondary education their top priorities as they begin next year’s budget process.
The legislature reconvenes in May for a short session. During that time, legislators will work on finance bills and the budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year in light of this year’s tax revenues.
Gov. Bev Perdue is set to reveal her budget proposal at a press conference Tuesday.
Last year’s tax revenue shortfall was $4.7 billion. This year’s is projected to be $790 million, and legislators are concerned that it could be much higher than predicted.
But whatever the state’s tax revenue is this year, legislators and the governor should make as few cuts as possible to primary and secondary education.
Currently, about 60 percent of the state’s budget goes to education. That’s a huge portion, and if tax revenues continue to fall, education cuts will probably be unavoidable.
But, frankly, even cutting from the UNC system would be better than primary and secondary education.
Holding primary and secondary education funding steady is even more important than getting the $200 tuition tax mandated by the state back to campus.
However important, a college education is still a privilege. North Carolina’s constitution guarantees as much access as possible to a college education. But primary and secondary education are a necessity.
Individuals need them to function in an advanced economy — in any capacity. And North Carolina needs a well-educated workforce to continue to attract economic growth.
Further enlarging class sizes, laying off more teachers and cutting more subjects not only hurts the futures of the children and teenagers in the system but North Carolina’s future competitive edge.
Of course, the UNC system depends on substantial support from the state — and cuts there must only be if there is a dire need. But maintaining the quality of lower-level education is even more important.