During a hectic week, NCGA Republicans moved bills that could further cuts to education and continue advancements of unchecked privatization of public schools
by Hannah Hogewood
A recent study found that just 23 percent of 4-year-olds in North Carolina have access to pre-k, below the national average. Meanwhile teacher pay in N.C. remains $7.8k less than the national average and NC teachers make 35.5 percent less than other 4-year college graduates in the state. Teachers pay out-of-pocket for school supplies to meet classroom needs. However, unchecked growth of charter schools has created a fiscal burden on local school districts of $500 to $700 per student.
A number of education-related bills are moving through the NCGA this session, but some appear to do more harm than good. We’ve highlighted three of those bills below.
H485 seeks to address a problem created by Republicans when they rolled back Smart-Start funding and, since then, continually failed to address the growing pre-k waitlist. Instead of funding pre-k, lawmakers want to send 4-year-olds to school online. Experts have concerns about the virtual learning pilot program because the value of pre-k “is less about the skill-learning in reading and math and more about skill-learning in social-emotional domains.” Virtual pre-k is a short-sighted effort to solve a funding failure with long-term impacts.
This week the Senate passed S392 to let Superintendent Mark Johnson to approve construction bonds for charter schools, allowing schools to bypass county boards of commission. A Duke University study found that charter schools place financial strain on local school districts. It’s up to County Commissioners to set county budgets, but with S392 the State Superintendent could force fiscal burdens of $500 to $700 per charter school student on a county without giving Commissioners a say.
Finally, despite low teacher pay, poor per-pupil funding, and abysmal classroom supply funding, lawmakers want to cut an additional $250M in state revenue with yet another tax break for corporations. S622 received a preliminary hearing in committee Wednesday but has yet to be voted on. The move to give businesses even more tax breaks is not shocking because, since 2010, Republican lawmakers have shown they care more about millionaires than making sure NC students and teachers have the tools to succeed.
Keep an eye on these bills as they advance as the 2019-20 session moves quickly toward crossover, the deadline for bills to pass one chamber or else be declared “dead."