What Students Need to Succeed: A State Budget Overview

Allison N. (2)Our country’s quest for universal public education embodies our shared values of justice and opportunity – promoting the belief that all children deserve educational opportunities regardless of their family’s economic status or zip code. As child poverty rates continue to climb in NC, public schools face the challenge of educating children experiencing additional stresses from hunger, housing instability (including homelessness), incarcerated parents, and exposure to violence. Increasingly, our public schools are being segregated along economic lines mirroring the housing patterns in our communities where the haves and have-nots rarely live in the same neighborhoods.

A necessary ingredient to closing the achievement gap and making sure all students can succeed is a pro-public schools state budget:  one that invests enough resources to hire excellent teachers, assistants, and provide the instructional materials for a sound education. North Carolina’s legislature had not been keeping pace with it’s historic commitment to public schools.

According the NC Justice Center’s Budget and Tax Center: “Spending in the Final Budget [2013-15] for K-12 education fell $117 million short of what was needed to continue an already inadequate level of education services due to a repeated pattern of cuts to education. When comparing the public education budget this year to the last budget prior to the recession and adjusting for inflation, North Carolina spends less today on education than it did five years ago, despite more students entering public classrooms over this period.”

This has meant higher student-teacher ratios, fewer teacher assistants, and out of date (or no) textbooks. Additionally, NC’s teacher pay scale is not keeping up with neighboring states. NC teachers face economic hardship remaining in the profession. In Buncombe County, for example, Eblen Charities is partnering with Buncombe County Schools to build apartments that teachers can afford to rent as an incentive to attract and retain professionals.

With public schools across the state gearing up to open, the NC Legislature has yet to approve a final budget. This leaves schools in the lurch as they try to plan and budget for the coming year. Neither of the proposals for NC’s K-12 budget from the House and Senate make-up significant ground to restore funding to pre-recession levels. The Senate’s proposal would eliminate state funding for all teacher assistants. You can read a budget comparison prepared by the Budget and Tax Center here.

Let’s come together and call on NC Legislative leaders to invest in our public schools. Let’s recommit to the values of opportunity and justice that have been the foundation of public education. Together, we can ensure that all children attend high-quality public schools that provide the tools for their educational success.

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This story is part of a series collected by The Success Equation. Under the umbrella of Children First/CIS, the Success Equation is an initiative that unites community to reduce and prevent the root causes of poverty so all children can thrive. Get involved! Learn about action steps, volunteer opportunities, and help share these messages by going to www.facebook.com/SuccessEquation. To find more, go to www.successequation.org.