Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Securing North Carolina’s Future: Governor Cooper Presents Budget that Raises Teacher Pay, Secures Child Care, Instead of More Taxpayer-Funded Private School Vouchers Gov. Cooper Proposes Historic Investments in Public Education, Workforce, Economic Development and Protecting Natural Resources While Cutting Taxes for Working Families

Apr 24, 2024

Today, Governor Roy Cooper released his recommended budget for FY 2024-2025, Securing North Carolina’s Future. The Governor’s plan would raise teacher pay by 8.5% and invest over $1 billion in public schools across North Carolina instead of more taxpayer-funded private school vouchers. The Governor’s budget builds on the state’s success as the top state to do business in the country for two years in a row and responsibly invests North Carolina’s strong surplus to provide tax relief to small businesses and working families coupled with investments that benefit everyday people, including quality child care, job training, and clean drinking water.

The budget includes an average 8.5% teacher raise plus a $1,500 retention bonus for most teachers, a $745 million investment to strengthen child care and early education for working families, a $2.5 billion school construction bond, a 5% across-the-board salary increase for state employees and non-certified public school employees plus a $1,500 retention bonus for most state employees, a moratorium on taxpayer-funded private school vouchers and critical funding for workforce training, economic development, conservation, and resilience efforts. Securing North Carolina’s Future is a responsible and balanced budget that invests $34.5 billion and maintains healthy state reserves while keeping taxes low.

“This budget is an opportunity to build on our state’s momentum and make up ground in areas like public education, quality child care and clean drinking water, where legislators have fallen short,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “As the number one state to do business in the country for two years in a row, we have the formula for success in our high-quality public schools, talented workforce and thriving economy. We must make targeted investments strengthening public education, boosting economic development, and protecting our natural resources to secure a bright future for North Carolina.”

Committing to North Carolina Through Public Schools – Including a Moratorium on Unaccountable, Taxpayer-Funded Private School Vouchers

The Governor’s budget invests over $1 billion in North Carolina’s first-class public schools to fuel economic growth, attract business and sought-after workers, and position students to thrive now and in the future. It places a moratorium on taxpayer-funded private school vouchers that lack accountability and reprioritizes those funds to public schools.

The Governor’s budget would lift starting teacher salaries to more than $47,500 including local and state supplements—the highest in the Southeast. It reinstates Master’s Pay, increases salaries for school-based administrators and invests $34.7 million to expand Read to Achieve to middle school students. It provides funding for 700 elementary school teaching assistants in grades K-3. The budget provides $11 million to strengthen the pipeline of new teachers and creates opportunities for more North Carolinians to pursue careers in teaching by expanding Teaching Fellows program eligibility to more education schools and in more subject areas.

It makes investments in student success through $217 million for crucial support programs for disadvantaged students, children with disabilities, and students with limited English proficiency. It also supports student mental and physical health with $44.6 million for school counselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers.

The budget addresses the $13 billion need for new school buildings by recommending that voters approve a $2.5 billion school construction bond on the November 2024 ballot.

Strengthening Child Care and Early Education for Working Families

The Governor’s budget recognizes the need for child care and early education in sustaining our economy with a multifaceted $745 million investment. It mitigates the fiscal cliff in child care funding and keeps child care centers open with $200 million for Child Care Stabilization Grants and $128.5 million for child care subsidies that will increase reimbursement rates for providers in rural and low-wealth communities.

Our nationally recognized NC Pre-K program is at risk because of persistent underfunding by the General Assembly. The Governor’s budget shores up NC Pre-K by investing $197 million to cover the full cost of care for NC Pre-K students and $24.4 million to provide summer programs for students once they complete NC Pre-K and before they enter kindergarten. The budget also further reduces child care costs for North Carolina families by providing a refundable child and dependent care tax credit.

Recognizing North Carolina’s Skilled and Talented State Workforce

Governor Cooper’s budget equips state government to attract and retain employees in the face of high turnover and a competitive job market. It invests $251.8 million to guarantee at least a 5% across-the-board salary increase and close to $400 million for a retention bonus for all state-funded employees.

The budget also supports solutions to complex labor market challenges with $195.8 million in funding for the Enhanced Labor Market Adjustment Reserve to give agencies, universities, and community colleges flexibility to address hard-to-retain and fill roles.

Supercharging North Carolina’s Economy and Workers

The Governor’s budget positions North Carolinians to thrive in a dynamic economy and stimulates job growth and business investments across the state. It invests in local workforce development, apprenticeship, and work-based learning programs that are proven to be pathways to good-paying jobs and capitalizes on the fast-growing economic sectors with funds for workforce training at community colleges.

The budget allocates $40 million for the Moore Manufacturing and Biotech Solutions Center for high-need job training, fortifies the health care sector with more than $18.5 million to expand the state’s capacity to produce more health care professionals, and invigorates small businesses and job creation with a $49 million unemployment insurance tax cut and $9 million to help small businesses pursue federal funds through One NC.

It establishes a rural youth apprenticeship program based on successful existing models and invests $5 million in job coaching for people with barriers to employment. The budget also improves economic participation and opportunities for people who are post-incarceration with $12.8 million in funding for local reentry councils and support services.

The budget also invests in our manufacturing readiness with investments in the Certified Sites program and a $50 million investment in Radio Island infrastructure improvements.

Protecting Natural Resources and Communities for the Future

The Governor’s budget prioritizes safe drinking water in North Carolina by establishing a $100 million fund to help communities clean their water from pollutants such as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). The budget reinstates the Conservation Tax Credit, incentivizing preservation of vital habitats, farmlands, military buffers, and historic landscapes and increasing public access to natural areas. It bolsters recreational opportunities and protection and restoration of crucial land and water resources with additional funds for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the North Carolina Land and Water Fund.

The budget also prepares for the escalating threats North Carolinians face from natural disasters with $20 million in grants to improve draining and reduce flooding with waterway upgrades. It increases funding for resiliency programs and supports data-driven enhancements to coastal modeling in the Flood Resilience Blueprint. The budget includes just under $5 million for equipment to enhance the North Carolina Forest Service’s capacity to battle wildfires.

Read the full budget recommendation here.


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