House and Senate leaders reached a final state budget agreement on September 18, 2015; the budget bill was signed that same day by Governor McCrory. The state component of local school districts’ budgets is the largest, followed by county and federal allotments.
So what did state legislators budget for local school districts?
1. The state is fully funding student enrollment growth. While some counties have had increases in the number of students, others, like Buncombe, have seen declines. Over the past two years, BCS enrollment has decreased by over 1,000 students.
2. The state is funding $750 one-time bonuses for teachers, central office and school-based administrators, paid in December 2015.
3. The state increased beginning teacher base salaries to $35,000; when the local supplement and benefits are included, that brings total compensation to about $52,000.
4. Experienced-based step increases were given to teachers and school administrators.
5. Teaching Assistants were fully funded. Class size for first grade classes was reduced to 1 teacher for every 16 students for 2016-17; an additional $27 million is allocated to hire more teachers.
6. Driver Education was reinstated at the 2014-15 level of state funding and the budget provides for future funding to continue. The delay was caused by the high failure rate on student driving exams. The state had considered putting the Drivers Ed program at the community colleges for better supervision but ended up allowing public schools to continue administering the program. School districts can charge up to $65 per student to fund driver’s education but must reduce the fee for students who prove economic hardship.
7. Textbooks and Digital Resources funding was increased by $21.82 million in 2015-16 and $31 million in 2016-17. Total funding for 2015-16 is $52.4 million. Buncombe County Schools’ textbook allotment was over $700,000 but the school board only budgeted about half of these funds. The county increased textbook funding by $100,000.
8. School Connectivity: The state funded further work to bring broadband connectivity to all schools and reliable connectivity to classrooms. Total state funding in 2015-16 will be $21.9 million.
Summer reading camps: Expands funding for struggling readers in 1st and 2nd grade in addition to the existing third grade reading camps. Total allocation is $20 million.
Opportunity Scholarships: Increases funds by $6.8 million in 2015-16, and $14 million in 2016-17. Parents can apply for scholarships ($4200 per child) to a private school of their choice. The application period will open on February 1, 2016. For more information and an application, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.ncseaa.edu/”www.ncseaa.edu. Select the K-12 Grants tab.
The state budget includes a total spending amount of $21.735 billion, which is a 3.1 percent increase over the previous budget. Of the total, $8.517 billion, or 39%, goes to K-12 education. If you include the amount spent on community colleges and the UNC system, 57% of the total is allocated for education.