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Budget expansion requests increased school support staff, school safety

Educators carry signs through Bicentennial Plaza during the rally for education on May 16 in Raleigh.
Educators carry signs through Bicentennial Plaza during the rally for education on May 16 in Raleigh.

The State Board of Education and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction have requested more than $190 million to expand funding for public education over the next three years to address priorities officials think have been neglected. 

The SBE and NCDPI hope to send the budget to Gov. Roy Cooper by Nov. 24 for approval. Cooper will then send his budget recommendations to the General Assembly, according to Cecilia Holden, legislative director for the State Board of Education. 

The revised budget contains additional funding to school support staff such as nurses and counselors, provides increases to teacher pay and allows the state to phase in regional support to assist local school systems.

“I think it's fair to say that the student is always the first thing that we keep in mind," Holden said. "In looking at all the budget priorities, student achievement and school safety continue to be the key factors that drive all budget decisions."

One of the largest items in the budget consists of more than $688 million in funding to be spent over the next eight to 10 years for school resource officers, nurses, psychologists, counselors and social workers. If the budget is adopted, school support positions would make up $71.5 million of next year’s total — about 38 percent.

“The State Board would certainly like to achieve the national recommended ratio for each of those positions. The (funds) would be a step forward in trying to do that,” Holden said.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has already phased in many of the items the proposed budget seeks to fund, according to CHCCS spokesperson Jeff Nash.

“The people of our community appreciate having a social worker that isn't shared among schools. There's more than enough work to be done at every school to keep everyone very very busy. Having them there full time is very comforting,” Nash said. 

Following the recent school shooting outside Charlotte, school safety has once again moved into the public eye. “School Safety: Physical and Mental Health” is another section in the budget that is intended to move school support staff and safety funds toward the national recommended ratios. 

“It gets to be cliché, but student safety is our top priority. People entrust their most prized possessions to us — their students — to us every day trusting that we'll get them home safely,” Nash said.

Beyond just support personnel, the budget aims to make the state’s resources go further by developing regional support systems. Holden said these systems are designed to help schools help themselves by advising them on problems, rather than physically making changes within schools. 

Because the State Board of Education is not a cabinet agency, it is permitted to reach out to members of the General Assembly. 

“There is no reason that I would think that the Governor would not be supportive of every one of these items that are in there," Holden said. "In regards to how likely the budget is to be approved, I think that all of these items so far are receiving good input."

Holden said these conversations have left her, among others, fairly optimistic about the budget's odds. 


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