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Senate Approves State Budget Proposal Including Private School Voucher Expansion

State Budget UpdateThe North Carolina Senate approved its state budget proposal on Thursday in a 37-12 vote after hours of debate throughout the week on its many controversial aspects, including a proposal that would allocate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding for the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, commonly referred to as “private school vouchers.” When asked during a press conference on Monday about the potential harm to public schools as a result of expanding the program, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) stated, “It makes no sense to me to provide money to the traditional public schools for children they’re no longer educating.” Later during the week, House lawmakers approved 65-45 the House voucher expansion bill after additional debate and several failed amendments from Democrats.

While education consists of over 50% of the state budget proposal, many education advocates were disheartened to see the Senate budget’s proposal for spending more to expand private school vouchers than it does to implement its proposed new teacher salary schedule, which would provide an average 4.5% raise for teachers over the next two years. With the House’s budget proposal providing higher raises and other positive items for educators not included in the Senate’s proposal, such as a restoration of Master’s pay, all eyes are now on budget negotiators, likely to be appointed by legislative leaders in the next week, to determine which proposals will prevail in the final budget package. Please see below for state budget resources and click HERE to access NCASA’s full Senate budget summary, including information on employee raises, health care and retirement changes, school finance changes, and more.

Employee Raisesall salary-related appropriations are recurring and effective July 1, 2023, unless otherwise noted.

  • Teachers — Spends $99.4 million in FY 2023-24 and an additional $152.6 million in FY 2024-25 to provide an average 5% raise over the biennium. See budget text Sec. 7A. 1 for additional teacher salary schedule details.
  • Assistant Principals — Provides salary increases tied to teacher pay schedule by providing $1.3 million in FY 23-24 and an additional $1.9 million in FY 24-25. See budget text Sec. 7A.8 for additional assistant principal salary schedule details.
  • Principals — Provides 2.5% across-the-board increase for most employees, or a 4.5% increase if the employee is paid on an experience-based salary schedule in FY 23-24 by appropriating an additional $7.1 million in 23-24; and provides additional across-the-board increase of 2.5% in FY 24-25 by appropriating additional $14.2 million; also adds Pre-K students to ADM total for purposes of principal pay, as requested by NCASA and also included in the House budget. Between July 1, 2023 and December 31 2023, school growth scores would be based on the prior school year, and between January 1, 2023 and June 30, 2024, school growth scores would be based on the best one of two prior school years. The current principal bonus schedule would remain the same. See budget text Sec. 7A.6-7A.7 for additional principal salary schedule and bonus details.
  • Noncertified Personnel — Provides 2.5% across-the-board salary increase for most employees in FY 23-24, or a 4.5% increase if the employee is paid on an experience-based salary schedule by appropriating additional $40.1 million; provides additional 2.5% across-the-board salary increase in FY 24-25 by appropriating additional $80.2 million. See budget text Sec. 7A.10 for additional noncertified personnel salary details.
  • Central Office — Provides 2.5% across-the-board salary increase in FY 2023-24 for most employees, or a 4.5% salary increase if the employee is paid on an experience-based salary schedule by appropriating $7.1 million; provides additional across-the-board salary increase of 2.5% in FY 24-25 by appropriating additional $14.2 million. See budget text Sec. 7A.9 for additional central office salary schedule details.

Health Care & Retirement

  • Employer Retirement & Benefit Rates, Sec. 39.26 Establishes 24.12% total State employer contribution rate for teachers and state employees for FY 2023-24, effective July 1, 2023, and a 24.34% contribution rate for 2024-25, effective July 1, 2024.
  • State Health Plan Employer Contributions, Sec. 39.26 — Establishes annual employer contribution maximum of $7,557 for employees and $5,525 for retirees for FY 2023-24, effective July 1, 2023, and a contribution maximum of $8,095 for employees and $5,405 for retirees for FY 2024-25, effective July 1, 2024.
  • Retiree Cost-of-Living Supplement, Sec. 39.27 — Provides one-time cost-of-living supplements to retirees of 1% in FY 2023-24 and another 1% in FY 2024-25.

School Finance & Business

  • ADM Adjustment — Provides additional $20.1 million in recurring funding for an allotted ADM of 1,549,792 students in FY 2023-24.
  • ADM Special Population Adjustment — Provides additional $20.1 million in recurring funding for the Exceptional Children (EC) preschool and school-age allotments, as well as the Limited English Proficient (LEP) allotment to reflect actual student headcount.
  • NCDPI Funding in Arrears (Change To Actual ADM), Sec. 7.20 — Requires NCDPI to develop a model to fund public school units (PSUs) based on the actual ADM from the prior school year’s Month 2 instead of projections for the upcoming school year; requires NCDPI to distribute PSU funding based on actual ADM in accordance with the model, effective July 1, 2024.
  • Small County Supplemental Funding — Provides additional $4.7 million in recurring funds to increase all tiers of the Small County Supplemental Funding Allotment, for a total of $59.4 million each year of the biennium.
  • Uniform Education Reporting System (UERS) — Increases funding for the UERS, which supports multiple software platforms provided to public school units, including a student information system. The revised net appropriation for UERS is $11.5 million in FY 2023-24 and $11.9 million in FY 2024-25.
  • NCDPI Fund Code Flexibility, Sec. 7.56 — Requires NCDPI, in consultation with the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) and the Fiscal Research Division, to redefine the fund codes for the State Public School Fund as necessary in preparation for the implementation of the North Carolina Financial System.
  • Consolidated Teacher Bonus Program, Sec. 7A.3 — Requires the State Board of Education to establish a consolidated teacher bonus program for the biennium to reward teacher performance and encourage student learning and improvement; requires NCDPI to administer bonuses to qualifying teachers whose salaries are supported from State funds in January of 2024 and 2025, based on data from the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years, respectively, in accordance with the section.
  • Supplemental Funds for Teacher Compensation, Sec. 7A.4 — Requires NCDPI to allocate funds to eligible local school administrative units to provide salary supplements to teacher and qualifying school administrators in those units; states the State Board of Education shall not allocate any funds under this section to a local school administrative unit if the Board finds that the unit has reduced the average salary supplement the unit provided from non-State funds in the prior school year, as well as other requirements. Note: NCASA is continuing to work with lawmakers in an effort to have this language amended in the final state budget package.
  • Small County and Low-Wealth Signing Bonus for Teachers, Sec. 7A.5 — Codifies the teacher signing bonus program, which provides signing bonuses to eligible employees in districts that receive small county school system supplemental funding and/or supplemental funding for low-wealth counties on the basis of $1.00 in State funds for every $1.00 in local funds, up to $1,000, for the 2023-2024 school year.

Student Health & Safety

  • School Health Care Personnel Allotment — Creates a new “School Health Personnel Allotment” by transferring 3,241 school nurse, counselor, and social worker positions from the Instructional Support Allotment to the School Psychologist Allotment, which will be renamed accordingly; also provides additional funding each year of the biennium to hire an additional 120 positions, for a revised total allotment of $347.4 million in each year of the biennium. See budget text Sec. 7.27 for additional information.
  • School Safety Grants — Provides $35 million each year of the biennium for the School Safety Grants Program to subsidize school resource officers (SROs), support students in crisis, school safety training, and the purchase of safety equipment, but does not make school safety funding recurring as requested by NCASA. See budget text Sec. 7.36 for additional information.
  • Feminine Hygiene Products — Provides additional $250,000 in recurring funds for the existing grant program that provides feminine hygiene products for students, for a net appropriation of $500,000 each year of the biennium.
  • Anonymous Tip Line — Provides $850,000 in recurring funding for the Center for Safer Schools’ anonymous tip line, which facilitates anonymous reporting of school safety threats.

Curriculum, Instruction, & Professional Development

  • Advanced Teaching Roles — Provides $10.9 million in recurring funds for salary supplements for the Advanced Teaching Roles Program (Program) and requires the State Board of Education to authorize New Hanover County Schools to participate in the Program beginning in the 2023-2024 school year. See budget text Sec. 7.66-7.67 for additional information.
  • Economics and Personal Finance Professional Development — Provides $450,000 in recurring funding for NCDPI to support economics and personal finance professional development for teachers.
  • Regional Learning and Early Learning Specialists — Provides additional $750,000 in recurring funding for 115 Early Learning Specialist positions, for a revised total appropriation of $14.8 million each year of the biennium.
  • High School Remote Instruction Flexibility Pilot, Sec. 7.61 — Requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to select 10 local school administrative units to participate in a remote instruction flexibility pilot for the 2023-2024 through 2027-2028 school years. The pilot shall authorize local boards of education to establish a school calendar for high schools that uses up to five days or 30 hours of remote instruction, as defined in G.S. 115C-84.3, to ensure that all final examinations for the fall semester are administered to students prior to December 31 of the school year. The remote instruction days or hours used as part of the pilot shall be in addition to any days or hours authorized by G.S. 115C-84.3(b).
  • Professional Development for Holocaust Education Funds Not to Revert, Sec. 7.65 — States funds appropriated to NCDPI for professional development associated with the Holocaust Education Act shall not revert to the General Fund but shall remain available until June 30, 2024.

 Special Student Populations

  • Low-Wealth and At-Risk Technical Adjustments — Provides additional $16.7 million in recurring funding for the Low-Wealth Counties Supplemental Funding and At-Risk Student Services allotments.
  • Student with Disabilities, Sec. 7.1 — Codifies funding for students with disabilities at 13% of ADM.
  • Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG) Students, Sec. 7.2 — Provides additional $5 million in recurring funds to support AIG students, for a revised total of $93.2 million each year of the biennium.
  • Weighted Funding For EC Students, Sec. 7.7 — Requires NCDPI to develop a services-based funding model for children with disabilities and requires NCDPI to report to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee by January 15, 2024 on the model in comparison to the existing funding model.
  • Special Needs Pilot Program, Sec. 7.53 — Provides $975,000 in nonrecurring funds each year of the biennium to be used to contract with Amplio Learning Technologies, Inc., to create a new pilot program (Program) for a special education digital intervention software platform in Alamance County Schools, Catawba County Schools, and Nash County Schools to increase opportunities for students with special needs. The Program shall focus primarily on students receiving interventions for speech language and reading development, including English language learners.
  • Extended Learning and Integrated Student Supports Competitive Grant Program, Sec. 7.63 — Requires NCDPI to use up to $7,000,000 in funds for the At-Risk Student Services Alternative School Allotments in each year of the biennium for the “Extended Learning and Integrated Student Supports Competitive Grant Program,” with the purpose of funding high-quality, independently validated extended learning and integrated student support service programs for at-risk students that raise standards for student academic outcomes.

School Nutrition

  • Reduced-Price Meal Copays — Offsets copays for students eligible for reduced-price lunches and breakfasts in participating schools by providing additional $3 million in non-recurring funding for FY 2023-24, for a revised appropriation of $6 million in FY 23-24 and $3 million in FY 24-25. See budget text Sec. 7.58 for additional information.
  • No Administrative Penalty For Unpaid Meal Debt — Forbids public school units from imposing administrative penalties on a student for unpaid meal debt, including withholding student records (transcripts, report cards, attendance records, and health records) and not allowing a student to participate in graduation or receive a diploma. See budget text Sec. 7.60 for additional information.
  • Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Meal Program Expansion Pilot — Provides $500,000 in nonrecurring funds in FY 2023-24 and $5.5 million in nonrecurring funds in FY 2024-25 for NCDPI to create a pilot program to increase the number of schools participating in the federal CEP program, which allows for free meals for all students in a participating school food authority. Funds in FY 2023-24 allow DPI to upgrade software and systems to be able to provide the pilot, which will begin in the second year of the biennium. See budget text Sec. 7.59 for additional information.

Career & Technical Education (CTE)

  • Health Career Promotion — Creates a competitive grant program for public school units to promote health careers to high school students by providing $1 million in nonrecurring funding each year of the biennium from the ARPA Temporary Savings Fund to NCDPI.
  • Career and Technical Education (CTE) Modernization and Expansion — Provides additional $200,000 in nonrecurring funds each year of the biennium for a grant program to allow schools to purchase a digital CTE learning platform.
  • Career Exploration and Development Plans, Sec. 7.13 — Incorporates provisions from Senate Bill 193, requiring the creation of career development plans for seventh grade students, which must be revised in tenth grade; requires the State Board of Education to establish a pilot of at least 20 local school administrative units during the 2023-2024 school year to develop requirements and professional development necessary for successful statewide implementation in the 2024-2025 school year.
  • Funds for Workforce Development/Hospitality Jobs, Sec. 7.51 — Provides $400,000 each year of the biennium from funds appropriated to NCDPI to be used “to provide nationally certified programs in career and technical education focused on developing critical skills necessary for students to success in the hospitality sector.”
  • CTE Modernization and Expansion, Sec. 7.55 — Provides $200,000 each year of the biennium from funds appropriated to NCDPI to be used to create a grant program for the modernization of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programming, materials, training, and professional development for courses conducted in grades six through 12.

Transportation

  • School Bus Replacement Fund — Provides $11.1 million in recurring funds from the State Public School Fund to support school bus replacements.
  • Extended Stop Arm Grant — Provides $500,000 in nonrecurring funds for FY 23-24 to NCDPI to operate a competitive grant program to assist public school units in purchasing extended stop arms for school buses. See budget text Sec. 7.57 for additional information.
  • Codify Use of Special State Reserve Fund For Transportation/Transportation Reserve Fund for Homeless and Foster Students, Sec. 7.30 — Codifies the “Extraordinary Transportation Costs Grant Program” (Program) to cover extraordinary costs associated with the transportation of high-needs students with disabilities; and codifies the “Transportation Reserve Fund for Homeless and Foster Students” to cover extraordinary school transportation costs for homeless and foster students.
  • Revise Transportation Funds Requirements, Sec. 7.47 — Lowers the amount the State Board of Education may reserve for future transportation allocation from 10% to 5% of the total funds available for transportation in such fiscal year from such appropriation; notes that prior to April 1 of the fiscal year in which the funds are reserved, those reserved funds can be allocated only in the event of an emergency need of the local school administrative unit. In the event reserved funds remain by April 1, the State Board shall allocate the remaining funds to all local school administrative units based on the efficiency of the units in transporting pupils.

Miscellaneous Funding Provisions

  • Classroom Supplies — Provides additional funding from the Indian Gaming Education Fund to increase the Classroom Materials/Instructional Supplies/Equipment Allotment. The revised total requirements for this allotment, including ADM adjustments, are $58.5 million in FY 2023-24 and $48.5 million in FY 2024-25.
  • Pre-K Early Literacy — Provides $969,000 in recurring funds for NCDPI to select and purchase a supplemental assessment that adequately measures early literacy skills identified by the Science of Reading, accompanying assessment materials, and training for all Pre-K teachers.
  • SparkNC — Provides $7 million in nonrecurring funds each year of the biennium to support the “SparkNC Pilot Program,” which is a partnership between SparkNC and public school units to develop a pathway for students to complete modular learning experiences that provide a competency-based equivalency to a traditional elective course credit. See budget text Sec. 7.62 for additional information.
  • Communities In Schools of NC — Provides additional $1 million in recurring funds for Communities in Schools of NC to continue programs initiated with federal pandemic-relief funds that provide students with assistance and enrichment activities, including over the summer. The revised net appropriation for Communities in Schools is $3.5 million in each year of the biennium.
  • Smaller pass-through grants included in the Senate budget committee report (pg. B27-B28): Beginnings For Parents of Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Inc.; Masonboro Island Explorer Program; Muddy Sneakers; NC Hospitality Education Foundation; and Best Buddies International, Inc.

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