North Carolina’s Public Education Emergency
Public education is the bedrock of North Carolina’s success. Public education powers our workforce, builds our businesses and boosts our communities.
Unfortunately, our public schools are under assault. The current General Assembly is considering extreme legislation that would cripple our public education system.
Governor Cooper is calling on you to contact your state legislators and ask them to protect our public schools in three ways:
1. Invest in teachers and early childhood education, not tax cuts for the wealthy
North Carolina doesn’t need billions in personal tax cuts for the wealthy when public education has such critical needs. Once in place, the proposed tax cuts reduce state funds by nearly one-fifth. Tell your legislators to oppose additional tax cuts.
Instead, finally give teachers a real raise of 18% over the next 2 years so we can keep good teachers and attract even more.
Help parents work and children thrive by investing $1.5 billion in early childhood education to keep childcare centers open, to help more children attend pre-kindergarten and to hire more early childhood educators.
2. Use public money for public schools, not private academies
We should not use taxpayer money to send children of millionaires to private schools. Stop private school vouchers with no income limits. It will rob public schools of needed funding and sanctions discrimination. Instead, use public money for public schools. Tell your legislators to oppose Senate Bill 406 and House Bill 823.
3. Keep politicians out of the classroom, textbooks and lesson plans
Keep partisan politics out of schools. Don’t force the State Board of Education into partisan elections or take away their authority and let education experts make curriculum decisions on what students learn. Tell your legislators to oppose House Bill 17 and House Bill 756. And keep culture wars out of the classroom; oppose Senate Bill 49 and House Bill 187.
To contact your state legislators, click here.
For more information on each of these issues, click on the tabs below.
Investing in Teachers
Study after study confirms that the most important factor in student success is the classroom teacher.
With over 5,000 teacher vacancies – which leaves tens of thousands of students without a qualified teacher - North Carolina is facing a teacher shortage crisis that puts the success of our students at extreme risk. We need competitive pay to attract and retain talent in the classroom.
Our neighboring states know this too—and that’s why they’ve passed us in teacher pay. North Carolina ranks 32nd nationally in average teacher pay. Even worse, NC ranks 46th nationally and 11th in the Southeast in beginning teacher pay. That’s causing teachers to leave for other states and other jobs.
Governor Cooper is proposing an average increase in teacher salaries of 18% over the next two years (average 10% increase for FY2023-24 and 6% average increase for FY2024-25).
This critical investment in our teachers would:
- Make NC 1st in the Southeast in average teacher pay by boosting NC’s average teacher salary from just over $57,700 to over $68,000 including local supplements.
- Move NC from 32nd to 16th nationally in average teacher pay.
- Move NC to 2nd in the Southeast in beginning teacher pay from 11th.
By contrast, House leaders are proposing an average teacher salary increase of 10% over two years – an increase that barely matches inflation. Senate leaders are proposing a paltry 4.5% teacher salary increase - and insulting veteran teachers with 15 years or more of experience with a raise of only $250 over two years.
What’s worse, legislative leaders want a dramatic acceleration in tax cuts for the wealthy that will doom additional salary increases. These proposed tax cuts are projected to cut our total state budget by almost 20 percent —hamstringing our ability to fund public education in the future.
Investing in Early Childhood Education and Care
Investing in early childhood education is a triple play: it sets students on the path to success, it allows parents to go to work, and it helps businesses find and keep employees. In May, the NC Chamber Foundation released the results of a survey that found more than 80% of North Carolina voters say the lack of child care is a problem that will not solve itself and that improving quality and making child care more affordable is a good use of taxpayer money. Further, 87% say taking action to ensure more working families have access to affordable, quality child care should be an important priority for North Carolina this year.
To ensure our early childhood care and education system can serve as many students as possible, Governor Cooper is recommending $1.5 billion in new funding to support childcare and early childhood education needs across the state. As part of that investment, the Governor’s budget includes:
- $500 million for childcare stabilization grants to help maintain access to affordable early childhood education.
- $200 million to increase childcare subsidy rates in rural and lower wealth communities.
- Nearly $200 million in recurring funding over the biennium for the NC Pre-K program.
The Senate budget fails early learners, their families and businesses by providing no state funding for child care stabilization grants or the expansion of Smart Start or NC Pre-K.
The House budget isn't much better, proposing only minimal funds to increase the childcare subsidy rate ($24 million beginning in FY2024-25) and for Smart Start ($10 million total for the biennium) - a fraction of what's needed to meet the child care needs of our state.
To ensure our classrooms are staffed with the best, most talented teachers, and that children, families and businesses have the child care infrastructure they need, we need investments, not more tax cuts.
Contact your state legislators and urge them to invest in teachers and child care, not more tax cuts for the wealthy.
Read about Governor Cooper’s budget proposal investments in teachers and early childhood education here.
Instead of investing in our public schools, legislators are proposing an extreme plan to pour billions of dollars into vouchers for private schools. By expanding voucher eligibility to any K-12 student—no matter how wealthy the family—our public schools will face a steep funding cut at a time of critical teacher and staff shortages. Wealthy families don’t need tax dollars to pay tuition at private schools.
Diverting crucial public education funding to unaccountable private schools will damage the educational opportunities of children in many of our rural and poorer counties, which could lose tens of millions of dollars in state funding for their public schools. You can see the impact of the proposed private school voucher expansion on your county in this chart.
Unlike public schools, private schools are not required to accept all students. Expanding the private school voucher program in North Carolina could turn us back to school segregation since private academies have historically been less diverse than public schools. We must prioritize investing in our public schools to ensure that all students, regardless of race or income level, have access to a high-quality education.
In addition, research on private school voucher programs shows that they aren’t better or more rigorous than public schools. Studies of voucher programs in Indiana, Ohio, Louisiana, and Washington, DC, have shown that students who moved from public schools to private schools fell academically behind their peers who stayed in public school.
But North Carolina has zero evidence of how students enrolled in the private school voucher program perform because there’s no meaningful accountability for student outcomes. In fact, the Opportunity Scholarship Program - the state’s private school voucher program - is the only program of its kind in the nation that doesn’t require rigorous evaluation of student performance. So we give them public money, but never follow up.
Fortunately, North Carolina parents already have great choices when it comes to their child’s education, whether that’s public schools, public charter schools, or private schools. But damaging public schools—which educate nearly 8 in 10 of North Carolina families’ children—is a recipe for disaster.
Legislators are pushing extreme new ways to undermine and politicize public education, demoralize educators at a time when we cannot afford to lose them and drive a wedge in our communities by injecting culture wars into the classroom.
One such bill - House Bill 756 – would steal responsibility for setting what students should learn in school (called the Standard Course of Study) from education experts and move it to a group of legislative political appointees. The Standard Course of Study is currently set by the State Board of Education and revised by professional educators and other nonpartisan experts from across the state. This new, radical proposal would eliminate a strong, professional, and stakeholder-driven process, making it easier for fringe politicians to remove core lessons in science, civics and history from the classroom. The proposed changes would also give the General Assembly a veto over changes to what is taught in our public schools and give a single member of the General Assembly the ability to delay a change to our state’s curriculum.
Bills that put politicians in charge of curriculum setting, micromanage what teachers can and cannot teach, and target LGBTQ+ students are an attempt by state lawmakers to take away local control. Local educators and experts should be trusted to make the best decisions for students in their communities, not politicians in Raleigh.
North Carolina’s future depends on ensuring that all children receive a good education that prepares them to be successful in the jobs of today and tomorrow. That should be our focus, not making kids fight culture wars and inserting politicians into the classroom.