The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday December 5th

Education experts tell legislature to take notes on NC budget

Nearly a week after N.C. legislators passed the state budget, many education experts are still unsure how to evaluate its impact.

An ideal budget would allow the creation of an education system worthy of children in North Carolina, said Keith Poston, executive director of the N.C. Public School Forum.

“The state budget released by the House and Senate budget conference does not make education a priority for our state," he said. 

Of the affected parties, Poston said he has a major concern for the budget's impact on public school teachers in the state in particular.

"Our teachers, the single most important factor in academic achievement, are once again largely left out," he said. "Nearly 70 percent of North Carolina public school teachers will receive no salary increase at all in this budget."

Maintaining teacher assistant jobs in early grades was an important element of the budget.

"But it's a sad day when we are spotlighting resources we didn't lose instead of increased support for education," he said.

But Jenna Robinson, president of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said the budget reflects the state's priorities.

"(The) higher education portion of the budget shows that the legislature is committed to the UNC system," she said. 

Robinson drew attention to a $99 million investment in the UNC system.

“North Carolina's public funding of universities is already fourth highest in the nation on a per-student basis," Robinson said. "This budget continues that high level of funding.”

The implementation of a guaranteed admissions program (GAP) at UNC also demonstrates the legislature's progress, she said. 

But Terry Stoops, director of Education Studies at the conservative-leaning John Locke Foundation, said the budget lacks room for innovation in structure and teaching.

“Over the last few years, there (have) been opportunities for traditional public schools to have this flexibility, but this budget actually restricts some of that flexibility," he said.

Stoops said by issuing school districts block grant funding — dependent upon student demographics — is the best way to achieve this flexibility.

"This would allow (schools) to allocate (funding) in a way that best meets the needs and local circumstances of that district," he said. 

But Stoops said he does not expect this strategy to become a reality soon.

"I don’t think we will ever come to a point that school districts receive block grant from the states," he said. "It is an ideal model, but might not be a practical one because of the politics.” 

state@dailytarheel.com

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