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May 19, 2024 4:36 pm

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NC Gov. Cooper presents his budget as the legislative “short session” begins

Credit: iStock

by Lynn Bonner, NC Newsline
April 24, 2024

Gov. Roy Cooper has traveled the state in the last year to promote public education and bash Republicans’ expansion of the private school voucher program. 

The budget proposal Cooper released Wednesday is an extension of that pro-public school position. It calls for teacher raises averaging 8.5%, with starting salaries of  more than $47,500. Cooper’s budget freezes funding of private school vouchers. 

Cooper’s recommendation for significant teacher raises comes as the state Department of Public Instruction reported an increase in teacher turnover. One in nine teachers left North Carolina classrooms between March 2022 and March 2023, the News & Observer reported. 

He also proposes to restore master’s pay, which would represent a 10% salary supplement for teachers with advanced degrees in the subjects they teach.

Cooper’s budget represents his priorities, which are frequently in conflict with those of Republicans who control the legislature.

Republicans approved a substantial increase in private school voucher funding last year along with a change in the rules that allows families to qualify no matter their income. The changes resulted in a flood of applications. House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters recently that the legislature will increase voucher funding in light of the heavy demand. 

The General Assembly opened its “short session” Wednesday. The legislature’s main job is to make changes to the two-year budget it passed last year. Last week, state economists reported that North Carolina would take in about $1 billion more in income tax revenue than anticipated. 

More items from Cooper’s budget:

Child care/NC Pre-K

North Carolina is facing a “child care cliff” with federal money from the American Rescue Plan running out. Child care operators and state officials are working hard to convince legislators to help cushion the fall.

Cooper proposes spending $745.2 million on child care and NC Pre-K, the state’s preschool program for four-year-olds. 

Child care centers have already started to close, and more will likely follow. One-third of child care providers responding to a February survey sponsored by the North Carolina Child Care Resource and Referral Council said they would have to close within a year. A majority said they would have to raise fees.

The budget also includes a refundable child care tax credit for families.

State employee raises

Cooper proposes pay increases of at least 5% for state employees. The state employee turnover rate was 13.7% in 2023, the budget said. Turnover for first-year employees was 32.8%. The average statewide job vacancy rate was 22.6% in December. 

State employees could earn retention bonuses of up to $1,500.

The budget legislators passed last year included 4% raises for state employees this year and 3% for next year. 

Click here for a copy of Governor Roy Cooper’s Recommended Budget Adjustments 2024-25.

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This story is republished from NC Newsline under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.