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August 18, 2014

The last few days of meetings in Raleigh have been chaotic and confusing with constantly changing committee meetings, bills being put on the calendar for consideration only to be sent back to committee. It now appears the NC General Assembly will adjourn sine die to reconvene in the 2015-16 Session next January with Medicaid reform and other issues being put off until then.

Speaker Tillis Loses Key Vote

Last Friday, the Speaker tried to put a House bill that had been modified by the Senate directly on the calendar without going through another House committee. That violated a House Rule that can only be set aside by a majority of members present. The motion to put the bill on the House calendar failed 46:44 with roughly 17 Republicans joining 29 Democrats to vote against the motion. The bill included increases in several economic incentives. We have already passed the state budget. This bill would have increased state spending without making any additional cuts to state funded programs. The state budget is already projected to be $191 million short of funds to pay for the approved expenditures.

That bill (HB1224) will be considered again this week and may have been voted on again before this column is published.

Problems for Public Education Created by the Budget Bill

The budget has always allowed Superintendents to move money between the teacher salary line item and the teacher assistant line item to meet local needs. A provision in the recently passed state budget made this more difficult. Superintendents and teachers pushed back successfully to get the limiting provision removed. One problem fixed.

One budget problem that can’t be fixed is the additional cut in this year’s budget to teacher assistant positions. Despite the misleading TV ads praising Republicans for raising teacher salaries more than any other state in the nation, most districts in the state are cutting teacher and/or teacher assistant positions. The ad falsely reassures parents that their children are receiving the education they need.

Average Daily Membership – a Promise Broken

In 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, when counties could not raise the money to keep schools open, North Carolina legislators made some bold moves to shore up public education across the state.

They agreed to pick up the operating costs for every public school in the state, including superintendent, principal and teacher salaries; textbooks; buses, food service and other expenses necessary to keep a school running. Then they raised the state income tax to pay for it.

The decisions included a formula that promised equal state funding for every child attending a public school in the state. The Average Daily Membership (ADM) is established on the 20th day of school when a head count is taken and sent to Raleigh. Total funding for each local district is based on that number. But because the budget is passed before school starts, legislators “project” the ADM and provide planning money based on that projection. Once the 20th day count is made, the funding is adjusted.

This year, during the budget conference committee meetings, that historic promise was broken. Now, it’s not clear how the state will project the state funding needed for public schools but it likely will not be on a counted increase in student growth by each school.

The Road to Prosperity

Education has long been considered the best way to overcome poverty. Decades of research show that the experiences in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can predict with remarkable accuracy that child’s success in school and their eventual social and economic standing in society. That same research also shows that that high quality early childhood education can and does improve the trajectory.

It defies logic and wisdom and compassion and religious teaching that we would abandon our children – our future workforce - by cutting successful public education programs while reducing and sometimes eliminating the tax obligation of high-income earners and multi-state corporations.

It is in the best interest our every tax-payer in the state to demand that every public education agency – from early childhood through the UNC system - has the funds needed to prepare our children for the complex world in which we all now live.

As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.

Verla Insko

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Verla Insko, NC House · 300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 502 LOB · Raleigh, NC 27603-5925 ·
Phone (919) 733-7208 · Mobile (919) 618-9889 · E-mail verla.insko@gmail.com or verla.insko@ncleg.net