Tell Legislators that You Oppose Provisions in the 2023 Appropriations Act (HB259)
After months of closed-door negotiations among the budget conferees, the 2023 Appropriations Act (budget bill) was finally revealed to all House and Senate members. As expected, it doesn’t do nearly enough to support public education and does a great deal to harm public education. Teacher raises fall far short of what’s needed to revive the shrinking teacher pipeline.
It’s easy to see why North Carolina has a teacher shortage when you look at how beginning teacher salaries have dropped since 2015-16 when adjusted for inflation. We can’t deny that low teacher pay is hurting our students. The new budget raises salaries for teachers a paltry $106/month – $200/month for 2023-24 and just $82 – $106 for 2024-25 depending on years of experience. It’s time for a much larger raise for our educators. Our state’s future depends on it.
Voucher expansion shifts millions of dollars to the private sector giving vouchers to anyone, even wealthy families (a far cry from the program they started to help “poor kids” have equal access to a public school alternative). Income eligibility requirements and the requirement to have attended a public school before applying for a voucher have both been removed.
This expansion will siphon billions of dollars from public school funding and force many local school districts to close schools. Within a few years more than $520,000,000 will be spent each year on private school vouchers. And because supporters want to generate interest, the marketing budget for vouchers just went up from $500,000/year to $1,000,000/year! Further, there are no meaningful accountability provisions.
This new budget requires taxpayers to fund the education of wealthy private school students while public schools remain underfunded and teachers underpaid.
In addition, these private schools often discriminate on the basis of religion, disability, and even whether an applicant or family member is part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Together, these and other budget provisions will devastate public education in our state, damaging our public schools in a way that they will never recover.
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UPHOLD GOVERNOR COOPER’S VETO OF HB 219 “CHARTER SCHOOL OMNIBUS”
On Friday, July 21, Governor Cooper vetoed HB 219 “Charter School Omnibus” in an effort to protect North Carolina from bad policy that will negatively affect education and the taxpayers who fund our schools throughout the state. Currently, the NC legislature has a slim veto-proof majority with the power to override Governor Cooper’s veto. We need legislators to do the right thing and UPHOLD the VETO.
Ask your legislator to NOT allow this harmful bill to become law. ASK YOUR LEGISLATOR TO UPHOLD THE VETO! You can view how your legislator voted.
HB 219 is a collection of policies that will grow charter school enrollment, funnel even more taxpayer dollars to them, further reduce accountability and oversight, and put taxpayers at risk from charter school capital spending.
Here is a partial list of what the bill allows (comments in parentheses are ours):
- Low-performing charter schools will be allowed to automatically increase enrollment up to 20% each year with no review. In contrast, low-performing traditional public schools undergo a specific process of review and improvement. None of this occurs for charter schools. (We should not allow even more students to attend failing charter schools, which risks their education and their future.)
- All other charter schools will be allowed unlimited growth with no review. (Traditional public schools are held accountable annually on academic and financial performance.)
- Charter schools will be allowed to give enrollment preference to students from specific preschools instead of including them in a lottery. (This will likely accelerate even more segregation of students by income and race.)
- The bill would allow charter schools to seek taxpayer money for capital expenses, such as construction. (There are currently local school districts all over the state that cannot raise enough local taxes to fund their traditional capital needs such as new construction/renovations. Diverting local resources to build charter schools when taxpayers do not even know who OWNS them is simply unwise financial behavior. Taxpayers should not be responsible for this risky financial situation and hard earned tax dollars should go to support the public school capital needs we have now!
- When deciding whether to grant, renew, amend, or terminate a charter, the State Board of Education and/or Charter Review Board will no longer be able to consider the charter school’s impact on the local public schools. (This means that charter schools that are unnecessary, further segregate schools, or siphon off students of specific demographics or abilities will be allowed to open and expand without question.)
Stop Senate Bill 90
STOP SB-90! Late Tuesday night, state lawmakers shocked colleagues, voters and educators across the state with the “Children’s Laws Omnibus” bill. In a rare move, even the NCPTA was alarmed enough to send a “legislative alert” to its members. Although the bill was pulled from the House Education Committee on Wednesday, it is likely to reemerge, so lawmakers need to hear from you now! This bill has potential to seriously undermine public education in NC and includes such extreme, unnecessary provisions as:
- Allowing parents a way to fire local superintendents. Parents could accuse their superintendent of violating their “fundamental right to parent” and if five such claims are successful, this bill requires the superintendent be fired or lose pay.
- Requiring school staff to inform parents if their child is self-identifying as a gender other than the one assigned at birth.
- Allowing parents to request their student’s reassignment from one school district to another school district regardless of the student’s address.
- Requiring educators and districts to post publicly available, detailed lesson plans, materials, etc. at the start of each semester.
SB-90 reaches further than K-12 schools, requiring public libraries to grant parents access to their child’s library records.
At a time when school districts across our state are facing critical teacher shortages, bus driver shortages and even superintendent vacancies, and fewer and fewer students are entering teacher education programs, these lawmakers have the wrong priorities.
We urge you to contact your legislators TODAY. Write a Letter to the Editor in your local paper (tips here), have your PTA and school board send a resolution against this harmful legislation. Raise the alarm with your friends, family, neighbors, civic organizations, business leaders and let them know about the impact this bill could have on our public schools. Watch a short video on advocating for public education.
Vote NO to Expanding NC Voucher Programs! – Keep Public Tax Dollars in Public Schools!
North Carolina’s voucher programs have been expanding for the past several years. Income eligibility requirements have steadily increased and other requirements have been loosened. These voucher programs siphon off money from public programs that undergo public scrutiny to unaccountable private schools that may not be using the money to benefit students. Diverting public money to private education starves public schools of vital resources. Public funds for education must support public schools, which are open to all children and accountable to the community.
HB823 (=S406) “Choose Your School, Choose Your Future” accelerates the privatization of public education by eliminating all income limits on voucher eligibility and massively increasing the allocations to the programs. For example, families making more than $246,000/year will be eligible to receive nearly half of the public school per pupil expenditure to send their child to private school.
Allocations to the voucher fund would increase by $175 million between 2024-25 and 2025-26 and would reach more than $500 million per year by 2032-33. Total Opportunity Scholarship voucher expenditures will reach nearly $4.5 billion by 2032-33.
The bills also expand eligibility to all K-12 students regardless of whether they have ever attended a public school. So students who have always attended private school, could now be paid by the state to continue to do so.
Instead, these taxpayer dollars allocated for the voucher programs should be applied toward the expenditures outlined in the Comprehensive Remedial Plan (Leandro plan). The state’s children and future would be better served by spending the money on public schools that benefit all students across the state.
HB823/S406 are money grabs that benefit private school families, essentially functioning as welfare for the rich. In states with similar programs, between 75% and 89% of voucher recipients never sent their children to public school (see our fact sheet for more details). These bills ADD unnecessary expenses to the budget; private school parents do not need taxpayer support to send their children to private school and they should not be able to use our scarce tax dollars to pay for unaccountable educational programs.
North Carolina will be paying more money for less education through this voucher program. There are numerous bills in the NC General Assembly at this time that dictate what can and cannot be taught in public schools in terms of history and other issues such as race while legislators are willing to pump millions of dollars into private school programs with absolutely no requirements about curriculum taught or practices within the program in regards to race, gender, discipline, etc. Why would legislators or taxpayers support it? Let’s be very honest – this program will benefit the rich, segregate our schools and communities, and devastate the North Carolina public school system. It will undermine the NC constitutional requirement to ensure a high-quality, public education.
Stop Spending Public Tax Dollars On Private School Vouchers!
North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program (School Vouchers), first pitched as a way to help low-income families afford private school when their children were not academically successful in public school has steadily expanded and is now available to public school students whose families earn up to 200% of the federal free lunch cutoff (about $103,000 per year). This program is no longer just for poor families but a public tax break for the majority of families in NC.
The basic premise of North Carolina’s school vouchers—that students will receive a better education at a private school than at their current public school so all children deserve the same “opportunity” —is false. There are numerous large-scale evaluation studies to debunk this myth. In fact, in the statewide implementations where voucher students are evaluated on the same metric as public school students (e.g. standardized tests), the voucher students show academic declines. The negative effects on student performance of participating in the voucher programs in Ohio or Louisiana were greater than academic declines caused by two years of COVID-19 pandemic or by Hurricane Katrina disruptions. The evaluation of Indiana’s voucher program also showed clear negative academic effects.
These large, well-designed studies conducted by reputable scholars show a clear pattern that cannot be ignored. Studies showing benefits to voucher students are largely funded by school choice proponents (e.g. Betsy DeVos), conducted by school choice advocates (e.g. Heritage Foundation), and involve small, unrepresentative samples. (See our fact sheet for more information.)
In North Carolina, private schools that accept voucher funds are not required to show any evidence of student academic achievement. As a result, North Carolina does not have the data with which to conduct a rigorous evaluation of voucher use. This is by design. Voucher proponents are shielding the program and private schools from the inevitable finding of negative impact on student academic achievement. When there is no sound evaluation and review, taxpayers are not given any evidence that their hard-earned tax dollars (more than $361 million dollars since they were introduced) has been worth their investment. In many states, as school choice proponents acknowledge vouchers’ academic harm, their argument has moved from one about escaping failing schools “to a war on vulnerable children” and the need for vouchers to help parents remove their children from specific environments. This is already starting to happen in North Carolina.
In states where voucher programs have been greatly expanded (i.e., not limited to current public school students or with high family income limits), the majority of voucher recipients are already in private schools. The voucher program just allows taxpayer dollars to be shifted from the public schools to the private schools thereby subsidizing the private education of students whose families didn’t require the support. All the while scarce tax dollars being removed from public schools and degrading their programs which are open and free to the public. In New Hampshire, 89% were already in private school. In Arizona, 80% and Wisconsin 75% had never attended public school. Program costs have skyrocketed as estimates based on public school students failed to account for the massive enrollments from private school students. The public is having to shoulder more tax burden with no improved academic results for students.
Funding public schools has a demonstrated large and reliable return on investment while school vouchers devastate academics.
Our legislative leaders should halt all funding for all voucher programs in North Carolina. Public funds should not be used for programs that have been utter failures in other states and harm the very students the programs are supposed to help. Accountability measures must be required of all organizations receiving state funding to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely and in accordance with our state constitution.
Tell Legislators to Protect Principal Pay!
The 2022 budget adjusted the way principals are paid starting in January 2023. Instead of their pay being based on three years of student growth scores, it will be based on just one year – a year greatly influenced by the pandemic.
Basing principal pay on just two factors (size of their school’s student population and student growth scores) is a terrible idea. This system, adopted in 2017, removed years of experience and advanced degrees from salary considerations and replaced them with student growth scores across three years. It does not consider the characteristics or challenges of any given school or school year.
Recent reports indicate that 1 in 6 NC principals may face a pay cut in January. Some salaries may drop up to $18,000. Like NC teachers, NC principals are already paid below national averages. Consider that these principals have endured pandemic challenges, growing staffing shortages, burnout, and student behavioral and health needs of the past years. Consider that in a “normal” year, a principal’s job is practically a 24/7 year-round job! They are not only responsible for the staff and students, dozens of programs, sport and other extracurricular activities, food service, buses, student parking, facilities and grounds and all of the functions that occur on the property, school safety, alarm malfunctions (day and night) and much more! Many principals are responsible for schools that are larger in scope than many small businesses. Our principals are the CEOs of our schools.
Principals have been hard at work all summer recruiting and hiring staff, preparing facilities and grounds, conducting staff training, and preparing to greet their students and parents. They are focused on leading their school in the tough work of gaining back student learning loss from the pandemic. North Carolina is already facing a teacher shortage and our principals are the ones tasked with finding a way to cover our classrooms! We cannot afford to lose our principals to neighboring states that pay more and do not have punitive pay plans. Our legislative leaders should be finding ways to keep these valuable leaders in schools and at minimum, ensure that their pay only increases over time.
2022 Budget Fails to Adequately Fund Public Schools While Adding Millions to Private School Reserves
The budget adjustments reflected in the 2022 Appropriations Act released 6/29/22 do a disservice to all North Carolinians by not addressing some of the state’s greatest needs during a time when NC has a budget surplus in the billions. While not allocating funding needed for our public schools, the 2022 budget increases funding for private school vouchers, a program that currently is overfunded and underutilized. Last year, only 55% of the vouchers (Opportunity Scholarships) awarded for use at unaccountable private schools were actually used. The money would be better spent on underfunded NC Pre-K programs, hiring more helping professionals – school nurses and school psychologists – to address the mental health crisis in our schools, or making sure all students had access to universal meals programs.
The budget funds only slightly more than half of what’s needed to fully fund the Comprehensive Remedial Plan – also called the Leandro Plan – to improve the quality of public education for all students. Governor Cooper’s budget proposal for this year sets out very specific priorities that would fund what’s required by the state constitution and court order for Leandro. With the reserves available, our economically disadvantaged, and often rural counties’ educational funding needs should have been a top priority in this budget, not private schools.
In addition, the 2022 budget does not include Medicaid expansion, which would provide healthcare access to more than 600,000 North Carolinians, many school-aged children, and their families. This expansion would also make students whose families receive Medicaid eligible for additional benefits.
This budget falls far short. Our students, educators, and taxpayers deserve better.
Sign our petition and let your legislators know that you find the 2022 budget unacceptable. It’s time to invest in our state’s future and fund programs that provide a high-quality education and health care for all North Carolinians.
Vote NO on HB755!
Our public schools already have policies in place to communicate curriculum and all other aspects of public school functioning, including finances to the public. Our public schools already work extremely hard to include parents in the educational process and address parental concerns effectively. Parental rights are paramount in existing state statutes. Most of what HB755 contains is practice throughout the public schools in the state. But NOT in private schools that receive public dollars. This bill creates undue anxiety in parents by giving the false impression that they currently don’t already have most of the rights contained in the bill and they can not already access information about their child.
All school personnel strive to create a safe, warm, welcoming environment for students and the restrictions in HB755 will hurt our most vulnerable students the most by placing unnecessary regulations on staff.
The strict timelines for addressing parental concerns and provision to advance any unaddressed issue to the State Board of Education or through legal channels if not met within 30 days places an undue and unnecessary burden on teachers and administration who are already overburdened with paperwork and reporting requirements. The result of this bill will be to drive teachers and other school personnel away from the profession at a time when we have massive shortages.
It’s Time to Fix NC Pre-K Funding!
NC Pre-K was designed to reach children in poverty, but it is failing to reach almost half of the eligible children in our state. Pre-K slots (the capacity of a site or county to serve one child for a 10-months) in NC are covered through 60% state funding and 40% local funding. This results in many of the neediest counties turning down state funding because they can’t afford the local matching requirements.
Making the problem worse, state funds provided for each slot have stagnated since 2012, so the amount reimbursed to the child care providers often doesn’t cover the actual expense of serving each child. And in the recent NC budget, only 15% of what the Leandro Comprehensive Plan identified as needed to fund increased reimbursements, program expansions, and adequate staff salaries.
If North Carolina legislators adequately funded NC pre-k and reconfigured how NC Pre-K funding is divided among the state, local, and federal level, counties would be able to serve more students. More students would be served and students would be better prepared to enter kindergarten.
Studies have shown that high quality Pre-K programs positively impact children’s language development and communication, cognitive development, emotional and social development, and health and physical development. Children who attend NC Pre-K programs are more likely to have high math and reading standardized test scores, reduced grade repetition, and an increase in the likelihood of future employment. Every child deserves a good foundation that helps them become a contributing, productive citizen.
Tell Your Legislators To RESTORE OUR TEACHING PIPELINE!
Schools our students deserve begin with experienced, qualified, career teachers. Study after study shows that the classroom variable most closely correlated with a child’s academic success is a good teacher.
North Carolina ranks 33rd for average teacher pay nationally but only 43rd for starting teacher salaries, making it much harder to recruit new teachers into the field. In addition to challenges caused by COVID, inadequate funding, the loss of master’s pay, and the repeal of career status are hurting our teachers and schools. We are losing teachers at a rate of 8% per year and our education programs are enrolling 35% fewer students than in 2012. There will not be enough talented teachers for our students unless our elected officials ACT NOW.
Let your legislators know that you want to recruit and retain career teachers for every classroom in North Carolina.
Fully Fund Leandro
North Carolina’s children have been waiting for more than 26 years for the state legislature to meet its constitutional obligation to provide them with a sound, basic education. Multiple courts have ruled the state is in violation of our state’s constitution and still, our children wait. State lawmakers must take immediate steps to comply with the Leandro ruling. With more than $9 billion in unreserved, surplus funds and a strong economic outlook for our state, there are no more excuses.
Tell your legislators North Carolina’s children can’t wait. Fully fund Leandro NOW.
Restore Master’s Pay!
Senate Bill 28 would restore master’s pay for teachers who obtain their degree in the subject that they teach. In 2017-18, the House overwhelming supported this effort.
It now has bipartisan support in the Senate! Click here to see the bill sponsors. Teachers who hold advanced degrees should be compensated accordingly. See this important research from the EDUCATION POLICY INITIATIVE at UNC. In summary, they concluded that graduate degrees in teachers’ area of teaching have positive impacts on student achievement and teacher development.
Fund School Psychologists to National Ratios
Needed: MORE School Psychologists in EVERY SCHOOL to help our children recover from the pandemic. Getting our children back on track mentally and academically is critical! PASS HB749!
Please sign our petition to encourage your legislator to sponsor or join this bill and vote YES! Our public schools are woefully understaffed with helping professionals, especially school psychologists. Children’s Mental Health Crisis Could Be a Next ‘Wave’ in the Pandemic. When our children return to school, we need to have the professional staff to help them recover from the impact of this past year. There will be a need for school psychologists to conduct mental health screening as well as academic screening. There will be a higher prevalence of children at-risk than ever before in recent history School psychologists can support teachers identify students who are in need of instructional and psychological support services.
School psychologists help teachers reach struggling students, improve classroom management skills, and utilize instructional strategies that will engage all types of learners and provide behavioral health services that are appropriate to the school context, reduce negative behaviors, and improve learning and achievement. These professionals are the experts that make a school and school system complete. They provide children and teens the mental health support they need.
COVID and the closing of our schools have had an immeasurable impact on our children’s mental health. Some of the challenges children and young people faced during the COVID-19 pandemic relate to:
- Changes in their routines
- Breaks in continuity of learning
- Breaks in continuity of health care
- Missed significant life events
- Lost security and safety
- Increased trauma and possible child abuse and/or neglect
HERE IS THE JUSTIFICATION GIVEN BY THE BILL SPONSORS:
*The social-emotional support provided by school psychologists can enhance students’ ability to succeed in school and in the community.
*As schools return to in-person learning amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, school psychologists are equipped to professionally address the accompanying increased demand for school mental health services.
*North Carolina has 780 school psychologists serving one million five hundred thousand public school students.
*North Carolina’s ratio of school psychologists to students is currently 1 school psychologist for every 1,943 students, and the nationally recommended ratio of school psychologists to students is 1 school psychologist for every 500 students.
*North Carolina’s top State-funded school psychologist salary is $14,180 below the national median salary, making it extraordinarily challenging to recruit and retain school psychologists.
*It is a top priority of the General Assembly to respond to the increased need for social-emotional support among North Carolina’s public school students in these challenging times.
Because of these facts,House Bill 749 (Healthy Students) includes a $10,000 pay increase for school psychologists, a 12% supplement for school psychologists that hold their NCSP, stipends for NCDPI to be able to offer 100 paid internships to districts across the state, a recruitment and retention program that would support sign-on and retention bonus, as well as a NCDPI recruitment and retention coordinator!
It must be a top priority of the General Assembly to respond to the increased need for social-emotional support among North Carolina’s public school students in these challenging times. This bill has bipartisan support. Read the full text of the bill.
Needed: Free, High Speed Internet for All Public School Students and Educators
Our students are at risk of being left behind if they do not have access to virtual instruction! Our educators cannot deliver high-quality remote instruction without affordable high-speed internet in their homes! Ask your legislator to provide all students and educators FREE, High-Speed Internet as part of their access to a sound, basic education!
As we have watched school districts across NC and the nation struggle to provide virtual learning, one thing is crystal clear-we need free, high-speed internet for all students and their teachers. Too many of our students don’t have internet at home or any device other than their cell phone. It is impossible to complete many school assignments without a high-speed connection. Our rural and low-income communities are hit especially hard by lack-of access. The digital divide exists in both low-and-medium income families. Even when school districts provide students with computers, the lack of reliable internet has been undermining the virtual learning opportunity. We need a permanent long-term solution to ensure educational equity, not just for virtual learning but to allow students access to homework help, conduct research for their school projects, and to help families stay in touch with the school, work and health care. Providing free internet at every opportunity in our public places, in our low-income neighborhoods and in the homes of all public school students will require partnerships between private companies and government at all levels. Thanks to all of the companies who have stepped up providing computers and internet service during the pandemic. Now, let’s keep it up. Our students will need all the help they can get to catch up over the next year. The truth is that high-speed internet should be treated as a utility. Just like we need reliable, fairly-priced water and electricity, we need the internet to function in today’s society. Allowing cities and towns to offer free or low-cost internet services is essential to the health and well-being of all communities, especially low wealth communities.
We are calling on legislators to fund free, high-speed internet for ALL public school students and educators who need it during this pandemic. COVID-19 has shown how critical it is to close the digital divide. We urge our legislators to direct CARES Act funds as well as using reserve funding for this emergency situation. Many districts have started instruction online and will continue to do so until it is safe to go back into school buildings. We cannot let educational inequities and disparities grow even wider. Join parents, educators, students and the community in the call for making high-speed internet accessible for all North Carolinians.
Further, it is time for NC Legislators to pass legislation that allows cities and towns to offer internet access as a utility. Due to restrictions put in place by the NCGA, the City of Wilson is the only city in NC allowed to offer comprehensive broadband connection to their residents. Their service, called Greenlight, is a community-owned, fiber-to-the-home network that started in 2008. All NC towns and cities should be allowed to offer internet services to support and foster the educational and economic well-being of their communities as well as improve the delivery of City services to its residents. The current restrictions on internet accessibility need to go! Internet access is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. Speak up now on this important issue!
Time to allow towns and cities to offer internet access as a public utility to keep it free or low-cost to everyone, especially those who cannot afford it. Like water and electricity, internet access is not a luxury. Join parents, educators, students, rural communities and low-income families in the call to make high-speed internet accessible for all North Carolinians.
Place a Moratorium on School Vouchers
Senate Bill 711 was introduced on May 5, 2020 to further expand the number of students who can receive a school voucher. The bill ELIMINATES the existing eligibility requirements for students to attend private schools. Now, the bill simply states that “any student eligible to attend a NC public school under GS 115C-366 eligible to receive a school voucher. See the original requirements that will be repealed if this bill passed.
SB 711 also increases the amounts appropriated for 2020-21 through 2026-27 fiscal years and for the 2027-28 fiscal year and every fiscal years thereafter by an additional $2 million. Grand total would now be: “For the 2027-2028 fiscal year and each fiscal year thereafter, there is appropriated from General fund to the Reserve the sum of $146,840,000 to be used for the purposes set forth in this section.” (The original budget narrative can be viewed here.)
ASK YOUR LEGISLATORS to VOTE NO on this bill. Tell them you do not support lifting eligibility requirements for school vouchers or spending more tax dollars for students to attend private schools that have no accountability for how they spent funds.
Instead, ask your legislators for a MORATORIUM ON VOUCHERS! Let them know we want schools paid with our tax dollars to be accountable for educating kids and we want transparency in how our tax dollars are spent!
North Carolina legislators have allocated almost $77 million dollars for 2020-21 for the voucher program this year alone. Those tax dollars will be spent on tuition for unaccountable private (mostly religious schools) for students who may – or may not – receive a fair and equitable education.
What’s more, the funds will be placed in a reserve, meaning that unused money cannot revert to the General Fund. This action helps to siphon much needed funds from our public schools in order to benefit private and religious institutions that are unaccountable for the money they spend, the people they hire, the treatment of students, and the education they provide.
Tell your legislators that you do not support lifting the eligibility requirements or giving more unaccountable tax dollars to the school voucher program!
Let them know that you support a strong system of free public schools that provide all children with a good education, under the transparent guidance of locally elected leaders. Please sign our petition and help us keep public money in public schools.
Stop Using Public Tax Dollars for Private Education – SIGN NOW
Say No to HB 32 and SB 671!
These two bills will weaken and help erode our public education system in NC! We need to fully fund our public schools and stop diverting needed tax dollars to unaccountable, private, religious schools and to schools that do not accept all children!
Our public school funding is once more at risk! Ask your legislators to protect and strengthen our public schools by investing in them, not by taking public dollars and shifting them to unaccountable, private, religious schools. Our public schools must be adequately resourced to deliver all children an excellent education!
Rather than prioritizing the funding of Leandro, NC’s oldest and ongoing education lawsuit, the NCGA continues massive expansion of private school vouchers. Our traditional public school budgets are at great risk due to two proposed bills that would divert our tax dollars to religious and private schools and divert tax dollars from funding public schools to funding private education, primarily for families who never had any intention of attending public schools. Ask your legislator to vote NO on HB 32 and SB 671 by signing our petition below!
While Opportunity Scholarships have been presented as providing “equity” for students, they are really about religiosity and the privatization of education. Taking money from our public schools is not good for current or future students. Vouchers drain much needed resources from our “free, open to all students” public schools. Both SB671 and HB32 will substantially expand eligibility for the NC voucher program, funneling millions of taxpayer dollars to increasingly subsidize payments to families with children in private schools. This expansion is estimated to cost taxpayers a minimum of $159 million over the next nine years on top of the already billions of dollars allocated to the current voucher programs without the new proposed changes.
These proposed bills would divert even more money to private schools at a time when cash strapped traditional public schools are struggling to meet the many needs the pandemic has amplified. Even before the pandemic began, the movement to privatize education in NC has been decimating our traditional public schools and harming our academic at-risk students. Now, COVID-19 has added more risks to these vulnerable students. Opening our schools safely during COVID will require considerable investment to adequately support students as they return to school buildings. This should be our primary goal, not expanding funding to unaccountable, private, religious schools.
SB671 will go even further than HB32. This bill will increase eligibility to 324% of poverty ($85,794 for a family of four). Further the bills propose increasing the voucher payments from $4,200 a year to as much $6,586 (100% of the per pupil spending in public schools) without the ACCOUNTABILITY that our taxpayers deserve. This violates all reasonable business practices. Moving our state even further in the wrong direction at a time our public schools are struggling.
OVERVIEW CURRENT PROGRAM: The North Carolina General Assembly created the voucher program called Opportunity Scholarships in 2013 awarding $4,200 per year for qualifying students to attend participating nonpublic schools. The state issued tax money to private schools was delivered for the first time in the 2014-2015 school year.
Harmful impacts from vouchers include:
- Reducing funding for public schools
- Infringing on the separation of government and religion
- Funding separate and unequal education and foster segregation
- No protections for LGBTQ+ students
- Diverting tax dollars to private entities
- No academic improvement of student success
- Create/accelerate racial and economic segregation in our schools
- No prior public school enrollment requirement for entering second graders
- Increase value of the voucher
- Loosening of prior public school enrollment requirement in grades 3-12
- Diversion of funds to marketing efforts.
- Increase of administration funding
HB32 makes the following changes to North Carolina’s two other voucher programs: the Disabilities Grant voucher and Personal Education Savings Accounts vouchers. The bill would:
- Merge the two programs and changes the name
- Expand eligibility for the vouchers
- Enact different awards and carry-forward rules
- Relax eligibility verification to receive the vouchers
- Forward-funds the program and creates guaranteed funding increases through FY 2031-32
SB671 seeks to do much the same on points that matter like family income eligibility and voucher payment amount. Without the millions of dollars these changes would cost, the legislative changes from last year alone to the voucher program expansion are estimated at $272 million over the next 10 years. SB 671 also eliminates the eligibility requirements and supports changes to increase fraud in how the funds are used.
Education is a public good and a key ingredient in a healthy democracy. Public education is a cornerstone of democracy and is a critical public good that must be provided free and fairly without profit, to all students. Supporting public education helps provide the educational, social, and economic needs of our citizens and helps to advance equity. Your voice in advocating for our public schools is vital! Help us protect the promise in our state’s constitution: A sound and basic, high-quality public education, free and open to all.
Tell Legislators to Keep Schools Safe!
Keeping Our Schools Safe requires a safe learning environment for our students and teachers.
Every child, every teacher, every member of a school’s staff is entitled to a safe environment at school. No one should live with the fear that sending their kids to school may be placing them in harm’s way. No school staff should feel his or her lives are in jeopardy for simply showing up at work. Public Schools First NC supports legislation that works towards creating safe, secure schools for all our students and teachers including:
Keeping guns off school grounds and out of K-12 classrooms. Guns have no place at school unless being carried by trained and licensed school resource officers. Further, any gun carriers, no matter how well-trained with guns/active shooter scenarios, must have knowledge of the school and familiarity with the students and staff along with some basic knowledge of how to work appropriately with children. Volunteers without these criteria could actually increase the chaos in a school and create more risk than protection to our students.
Not arming teachers in our schools. There is no evidence that arming teachers will keep children safe at school. In fact, the research shows that arming teachers will actually make our students less safe. Using common sense, one can understand why this should not be the role or duty of our educators. Arming teachers actually increases the risks posed to our students. Both national teacher professional associations and gun safety experts agree on this point.
Increasing the number of counselors, social workers, school psychologists, and school nurses in schools based on national standards. Instead of adding financial burdens/liabilities on schools districts (taxpayers), spend more on helping professionals. For many children, school is the only safe and stable place in their lives. Kids are more likely to get needed mental health services at school than through any other place.
We have a critical need for more helping professionals in our public schools to help children cope with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), to intervene and to help these children have a better chance at academic success, to help students develop better relationships and reduce conflict with peers; all events that improve a child’s chance to live a more productive and healthy life. These helping professionals not only provide services to children but these professionals are needed to train and educate teachers and other support staff in being trauma-informed, responsive and compassionate adults. This training is needed if they are to help children moderate the impacts of trauma in their lives. Currently, our public schools are woefully understaffed to meet the needs of our trauma-impacted children.
- 1 school counselor for every 250 kids. NC pays for 1 for every 413 students.
- 1 social worker for every 250 children. NC pays for 1 per 1,922.
- 1 school psychologist for every 700 kids. NC pays for 1 per 2,483 students.
- 1 school nurse for every 750 kids. NC has one school nurse for every 1,072 children.
Only 50 schools in NC meet the ratio of 1 to 750.
Implementing violence prevention and threat-reporting programs at all schools. Administrators, teachers and other staff need to know how to teach students alternatives to violence including peaceful conflict resolution and positive interpersonal relationships skills. There are many excellent programs but this requires allocating resources and staff training time. Further, schools need staff trained in conducting threat assessment and risk-assessment procedures that can help prevent tragedies from occurring.
Increasing funding for school security as determined by local school districts. All schools must have ways to limit access to school buildings, monitor visitors, and prepare children and staff for physical safety threats, etc. This is an investment we must provide every school and provide the training needed to enforce strategies adopted by each school to keep children and staff safe.
Working with elected officials to pass comprehensive gun safety laws. You can advocate for ways to reduce risks posed to our school children. Keeping guns off school property ensures a safer and more supportive learning environment for our children but we also need more helping professionals, more restorative justice programs, and other constructive ways to improve school safety. Let’s ask for common sense, effective solutions that work.
Real Teacher Appreciation
Real teacher appreciation means attracting, retaining, and honoring our public school teachers.
In North Carolina, we have a lot to do to truly demonstrate our esteem for these dedicated professionals. We must:
- Attract the highest caliber students to teaching by:
- Paying teachers at or above the national average so that it is a viable career for college graduates
- Preserving state pension and retirement health benefits for new hires so that young people see a career path that will support families
- Retain our current teachers, who have more Board certifications than any other teacher-force in the nation by:
- Restoring Master’s pay and career status protections for all teachers
- Including our most experienced teachers in pay raise plans instead of having them plateau at 25+ years of experience even as their insurance costs rise
- Restoring support staff – including teacher assistants, school counselors, and enhancement teachers – so that these professionals can concentrate on core instruction to truly benefit our children
- Honor our retired teachers for their lifetime of commitment by:
- Providing annual COLA increases for their support, especially given that many continue to volunteer their hard-won expertise in local schools
- Refusing to codify budget provisions that prevent future COLA increases
Ask the House of Representatives to show real teacher appreciation for the good of our students and our state.
If we continue to disrespect our teachers, our schools and children will suffer for it.
We have the best and the brightest gracing our classrooms, and we must truly appreciate their efforts if we hope to keep them and attract others like them.
Tell Legislators to #PutTheCapBack
Our View: Charter schools have nearly doubled since the cap was lifted in 2011. Charter schools are largely unregulated, siphon money from traditional public schools and exacerbate segregation. Further, there is no evidence charters produce better long-term outcomes for students and they are not meeting the requirements of the state statute that created charter schools. It is time to put the cap back on the number of charter schools allowed. We propose a comprehensive review of charter student performance, fiscal management, and the impact of charter-related policies on students, public schooling, and taxpayers. Let’s stop adding new charters or expanding an existing one and have a reset! #PutTheCapBack
Quick Overview of Charters: The original NC charter school legislation was ratified in 1996 and authorized the establishment of up to 100 charter schools. For the 1997-98 school year, 34 charter schools opened their doors; by the early 2000s, the number of charter schools had leveled off in the 90s. The cap on the maximum number of charter schools allowed (100) was lifted in 2011. By the next year, nearly 45,000 students were enrolled in charter schools.
Currently, 185 charter schools, including two online or virtual charter schools, operate in North Carolina, serving approximately 101,000 children. Charter school students make up nearly 6.5% of the total student population for grades K-12. An additional eight schools received a favorable report in August from the State Board of Education to begin a planning year in preparation to open in August 2019. During the 2018 application year, seven other schools were granted a one-year delay in opening by the State Board of Education. These 15 schools, once all open, will bring the state’s total number of charter schools to 200. The deadline to apply to the Office of Charter Schools was October 1. Thirty-five applications were received for the 2020 school year.
Fully Fund Specials!
It is critical to ask the North Carolina Senate to FULLY FUND SPECIALS now!
Class size restrictions that will keep school districts from using classroom teacher funding to pay for specialized art, music, world languages, and PE instruction are looming just one year away. It is not fair to let these teachers worry for another year about having jobs! And it is not good practice to hamper local school districts’ fiscal and space planning for another year. School leaders should not have to choose between smaller class sizes and offering a robust, well-rounded education for all children.
North Carolina ranks 43rd in the nation for per pupil spending. Raising per pupil expenditure is the number one need of our school districts this year. Our legislators provide about $3,000 less per student than the national average and we are at the bottom compared to money spent per student in other Southern states. We should be at the national average!
Not only do we need to increase per pupil expenditure, we need to allow local school boards and superintendents the flexibility to use funds in ways that best meet their students’ needs. Our legislators have been micro-managing districts and this does not allow locally elected officials on the school board, city councils and county commissioners the flexibility they need to best serve their unique student populations.
SIGN TODAY to ask senators to put $325 million for specials teachers in the 2017-2019 biennial budget they are writing now. Ask them to fully fund our specials and invest in our children!
Tell the NCGA to Solve #ClassSizeChaos Now!
We have a special problem that needs solving. Impending K-3 class size restrictions are causing enormous problems for school districts: from the loss of specials teachers to ballooning upper elementary classes, from underfunded programming to classes held in hallways, class size chaos looms. This is not just a K-3 issue; it is a PreK-12 issue.
Hardship Waivers Should Be Allowed!
Restore HB13 to the Original Bill and ALLOW more Flexibility!
The NC General Assembly is scheduled to come back to Raleigh on January 10, 2018. During a special session in October, there were attempts in the House to amend the budget bill, reverting back to the flexibility allowed in the original HB13. The Senate would not pass that measure. This issue will be back on the agenda when the NCGA convenes next year.
When our NCGA members return in January 2018, they need to solve #ClassSizeChaos! It is not fair for parents, teachers and school leaders to continue to worry about the sufficiency of funding to keep their enhancement teachers or the tremendous chaos created as they try to meet mandated classroom space needs. Local school district leaders cannot adequately plan to meet the fiscal or space requirements and have stated to resort to worst case scenarios, strategies like capping schools, laying-off teachers, doubling up classes, significantly increasing class sizes in grades 4 and 5 – all to find extra classroom space and money needed to keep their enhancement teachers. Simply put, the has become a disaster for our children by disrupting their school and learning environments.
What Do School Districts Want?
- Local school districts want the NCGA to restore the original HB13 bill to allow more local flexibility in K-3 class sizes.
- Further, our school districts are asking to have the enhancement teachers FULLY funded in January to allow time for local budgeting and to avoid lay-offs.
- At a minimum, school districts need an option for obtaining hardship waivers to allow for more time to deal with these unfunded mandates. Legislators could provide waiver mechanisms for the many districts that simply cannot reconcile K-3 class size restrictions with offering a robust, well-rounded education for all children. A hardship waiver for school districts that can justify the need for more time to find qualified teachers and additional classroom space should be allowed.
- Finally, please join us is asking legislators to restore the 4th and 5th grade class size caps that they removed in 2013! Class size matters at all K-12 age levels. We are putting the burden of lowering class sizes in K-3 on the shoulders of our 4th and 5th grade students as they prepare for middle school.
Our elected representatives need to know how seriously we take the impending fiasco caused by unfunded K-3 class size restrictions. School districts need guaranteed funding and more time!
When you write to your legislators, please use the #ClassSizeChaos hashtag so they can see our collective concern and support for making changes to class size restrictions and their implementation process.