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North Carolina Governor Declares State of Emergency for Public Education

The “In the States” feature by Kaitlyn Brennan is a weekly update to keep members informed on state-level activities impacting the education and educator preparation community.

Last week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for public education for the state of North Carolina in a video address to constituents. The Governor pointed to teacher salary, respect of the profession, and the expansion of private school vouchers as key issues that are “aiming to choke the life out of public education.”

North Carolina’s state legislature is led by a Republican majority. In the Senate’s budget proposal, teachers across the state would see a 4.5% raise over the next two years while the House had suggested a 10.2% raise for teachers. The Governor for his part had pushed for an 18% salary increase for educators.

“The Senate has given veteran teachers a $250 raise spread over two years…that’s a slap in the face and will make our teacher shortage worse,” said Governor Cooper.

Additional concerns presented by the Governor throughout his video address include:

  • 5,000 teacher vacancies that need to be breached, which is where he said the average pay raises exacerbated the problem. Senators have touted raising the starting pay level significantly to address the need to recruit and an investment in educational programs for teachers.

  • The need to invest in early childhood education, about which he said lawmakers were “turning their backs on children, parents, and the businesses that want to hire those parents.” Lawmakers have included some funding for childcare assistance in their budgets.

  • The “political culture wars” that he said would put “politicians in charge of curriculum-setting, micromanage what teachers can teach, and target LGBTQ+ students.” He mentioned the elimination of some science classes and the restructuring of history curricula.

All of this comes as Congress left town for the holiday weekend without having struck a deal surrounding the debt limit. As you will recall, last month, House Republicans passed a bill that ties the debt limit to appropriations by raising the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or through the end of next March, whichever happens first, in exchange for a wide range of proposals to decrease government funding. The cuts to federal funding would include capping federal funding at fiscal year (FY) 2022 levels — a nearly 22% cut to non-defense discretionary programs (i.e. education) — while also limiting spending growth to 1% every year over the next decade. According the Department of Education, under the proposal the potential cuts would mean the following for North Carolina’s students and teachers:

  • Gut Funding for Low-Income Students. The proposal would cut approximately $12 million in Title I funding for North Dakota schools serving low-income children, impacting an estimated 40,000 students and reducing program funding to its lowest level in almost a decade — a cut equivalent to removing nearly 200 teachers and specialized instructional support personnel from classrooms.

  • Cut Support for Students with Disabilities. Under the proposal, as many as 17,000 children in North Dakota with disabilities would face reduced supports — a cut in IDEA funding equivalent to removing approximately 100 teachers and related services providers from the classroom.

  • Slash Mental Health Support for Students. The House Republican proposal would limit educators’ abilities to address student mental health issues, including through violence, suicide, and drug abuse prevention, by cutting Title IV, Part A funding for North Dakota schools by about $1.5 million.