The Pulse

North Carolina’s waning commitment to public education nothing to write home about

By: - October 16, 2014 10:10 am

North Carolina is among 14 states that have cut per-student state funding by more than 10 percent for the current school year compared to before the Great Recession, a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) highlights. This waning commitment to public education by state lawmakers in recent years has heightened the challenge of public schools having to do more with fewer resources.

K12_CBPP Ed Report 2014

Whereas many states are restoring and boosting state spending in public education, North Carolina has taken a different path. Some states have not only avoided raising new revenue after the recession, the CBPP report notes, but also have passed large tax cuts that further reduce state revenue. North Carolina falls into this group of states. The tax plan passed last year significantly reduces revenue available for public investments. Revised estimates by state officials highlight that the tax plan will cost more than originally projected – $5.3 billion over the next five years.

Ensuring that all students attending public schools are afforded a high-quality education requires that our public schools are adequately funded. The ability to recruit and retain talented teachers, reduce class size, effectively serve a diverse student population, and ensure that our youth begin their formal education years ready to learn require a commitment to public education at the state level. However, realizing these laudable goals has become more and more a challenge in recent years.

Legislative leaders have chosen to prioritize tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations and taxpayers over public education. Funding cuts made to public education today threaten North Carolina’s long-term economic prospects. In a dynamic 21st century economy, businesses require a skilled and educated workforce. The investments we make in our public schools today will determine the quality of the state’s future workforce and North Carolina’s ability to compete for good-paying jobs.

Reversing the current trend and boosting investment in our public schools is important to promoting an economy that works for all North Carolinians. The CBPP report highlights the unfortunate reality that North Carolina is abandoning its long-held commitment to public education. This commitment has played an important role in the Tar Heel state becoming a leader among southern states. A heightened state-level commitment to public education requires ensuring that adequate revenue is available. The first step state lawmakers must take to rebuild North Carolina’s commitment to public education is to stop the next round of income tax cuts set to go into effect January 2015.

This post is part of the NC Budget and Tax Center’s Blog series on the final budget passed by North Carolina lawmakers during the 2014 legislative session. See the rest of the series here.

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