Governor Roy Cooper’s budget would fully fund the third year of Leandro’s turnaround plan

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Governor Roy Cooper

The third year of Leandro’s comprehensive turnaround plan would be fully funded under a budget proposal released Wednesday by Governor Roy Cooper.

Cooper’s plan calls for spending $525.8 million on the school improvement plan that stems from the state’s long-running Leandro School funding lawsuit. It also proposes to spend an additional $687 million on construction, repair and renovation projects at K-12 systems and the University of North Carolina.

The corrective plan is based on a detailed school improvement plan developed by WestEd, a consulting firm hired by Cooper to review public education in North Carolina. WestEd concluded that it would cost $5.6 billion over eight years to fully implement its recommendations.

“My budget fully funds the plan to ensure every child receives a solid basic education and we know these have been a difficult two years for students, parents and staff,” Cooper said. “Children and educators are working hard to catch up on their studies and they need more support.”

The Leandro dispute began nearly three decades ago, when school districts in five low-wealth counties sued the state claiming children weren’t getting the same level of educational opportunities as students in higher counties. rich. School districts from Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson and Vance counties joined Halifax in the lawsuit.

In 1997, the state Supreme Court issued a decision, later reconfirmed in 2004, in which it ruled that every child has the right to a “sound basic education” that includes competent and well-trained teachers and principals. and equitable access to resources.

The state Supreme Court is preparing to take over the case after Leandro’s former judge, David Lee, ordered lawmakers to transfer $1.7 billion from his coffers to pay for the first two years of the plan. recovery. Republican lawmakers argue that the lower court lacks the power to order such a transfer. They also disagree with their fellow Democrats on how much of Lee’s $1.7 billion transfer is included in the current budget.

Teachers would also see bigger increases and the master’s salary would be restored under Cooper’s proposal, which is essentially a second-year revision of the state’s biennial budget lawmakers approved last year.

North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature ended pay increases for educators with advanced degrees in 2013, saying there’s no evidence teachers with master’s degrees help improve education. student test scores. Critics of the move say it has made it harder for the state to recruit and retain quality educators.

Here are the expected impacts of Cooper’s proposed investment in education:

  • Ensure that all teachers receive an increase of at least 7.5% during the biennium.
  • Support up to 535 additional teachers with forgivable loans.
  • Provide up to 97,500 students with no co-pay, free school meals.
  • Increase NC Pre-K reimbursement rates by 19% and administrative reimbursement rates by 6% to 10%.
  • Expand Smart Start services statewide and strengthen the early intervention program with increased staff and professional development.
  • Expand the Child Care WAGE$ program statewide to improve wages for early childhood educators.

Here is the governor’s full budget proposal.

Tamika Walker Kelly

NC Association of Educators President Tamika Walker Kelly applauded Cooper’s revised spending plan.

“Among the highlights of Governor Cooper’s budget proposal are much-needed salary increases and adjustments for educators, as well as a commitment to fund Leandro in his third year while providing $180 million in student support to risk and low income. said Kelly. “Given the latest state revenue projections, we are confident these are achievable goals.”

The state expects a surplus of $4 billion this fiscal year and nearly $2 billion next year, according to a revenue forecast released this week by the Fiscal Research Division and the Budget Office. and state management.

The state’s Republican leadership did not respond to Cooper’s proposal. The Raleigh News & Observer reported that Senate Leader Phil Berger will address the proposal next week during the short session, which begins Wednesday.

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