TALLAHASSEE, Fla.— Yesterday, Governor Pat McCrory signed the amended 2016-2017 state budget, which included significant funding for College and Career Readiness, K-3 Reading and School Choice— more than $55 million in additional funds to spur student gains and growth and prepare North Carolina’s future workforce for success in the global economy.
“North Carolina has made quality education— education that truly prepares students for success in school and beyond— a top priority,” said J. Alex Kelly, Vice President of Advocacy for the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd). “With this state budget, the governor and legislature have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to ensuring students, teachers, schools and parents have the resources needed for a bright future. ExcelinEd commends North Carolina’s leaders for pursuing a student-driven budget.”
Read on for the highlights.
Preparing for College and Career
The amended budget includes $4.3 million in incentives for teachers leading Advanced Placement (AP) / International Baccalaureate (IB) courses in which students earn a 3 or higher on AP exams or a 4 or higher on IB tests. The budget also includes $600,000 in bonuses for teachers of industry certification classes— $25 to $50 per teacher for each student who earns an industry certification tied to workforce demand. Access to advanced coursework and opportunities to learn a skill in a high-demand, high-wage industry means students will be prepared for today’s workforce, teachers will be rewarded financially for student success and North Carolina’s economy will be able to rely on a homegrown talent pipeline.
Improving Grade-Level Reading
Helping ensure all students read on grade level by the end of third grade is critical to setting them up for success in fourth grade and beyond. The governor and legislature demonstrated their commitment to grade-level reading with $10 million in bonuses for the top 25 percent of third-grade reading teachers statewide and in each district, an upgrade to North Carolina’s already strong Read to Achieve program. The amended budget also protects $20 million in existing funds for summer reading camps for first and second grade students. And it prevents the Department of Public Instruction from redirecting Read to Achieve dollars for other purposes.
Increasing Options for High-Need Students
North Carolina’s Special Education Scholarship Grants provide vouchers of up to $8,000 a year that can be used to cover private school tuition or homeschool services for students with unique education needs. The amended budget adds $5.8 million to more than double the number of students that can participate in the program. The budget also includes $34.8 million to “forward-fund” the state’s companion low-income voucher program and adds another $10 million a year to the program (enough to serve an additional 2,000 students) until reaching $144.8 million in 2027-28. This means more families, regardless of zip code or income level, now have a choice in determining the best education pathway for their children.