OK, so we may be paraphrasing Jessie J, but in this case it really is all about the money.

The NC House released its budget on Thursday evening, right before the holiday weekend. Get ready to make some phone calls tomorrow as the budget is likely to be voted on early this week.

As expected, the House did “correct” some of the extremities of the Senate budget. There are, however, a lot of missed opportunities in the budget to invest in education, workforce development and job creation, and in rural communities. The NC GOP is still putting a priority on tax cuts with the budget surplus rather than spending in strategic areas that can have a long term growth impact on the state.

Here are a few highlights of the differences:

  • Department of Public Instruction funding: Senate wanted a 25% cut in funding; House budget does not include those cuts. The House budget does double the number of at-will employees Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson can hire for his office without board approval, from five in the Senate budget to 10.
  • Department of Environmental Quality: House budget does not have the same drastic cuts to positions that were found in the Senate budget.
  • Education spending: While the House budget spends less than the Senate budget, it does reinstate the education programs in eastern North Carolina that were part of 3am hissy fit the NCGOP threw because the Democratic senators wanted to add amendments to the budget.
  • Governor’s School: The House wants to keep funding the Governor’s School, a high school summer enrichment program that’s more than 50 years old. The Senate called for eliminating state funding for the program after this year and funneling the money to a different summer program, the Legislative School for Leadership and Public Service, and a science program run by the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
  • Preschool funding: The House includes funding to add slots to a pre-kindergarten program to eliminate its waiting list, a provision that also appears in Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget. The Senate would also add funding to the program with the aim of cutting the waiting list in half.
  • SNAP: In the House budget, SNAP funding would be restored, eliminating provisions that would have cut off food stamps to about 133,000 people statewide in the Senate budget. Yay!

The News & Observer also has a good summary of the changes between the two budgets.

What are we most concerned about?

We are concerned about the fact that the House, just like the Senate, broke its promise to fund Specials in NC. As of this exact moment, the budgets on the table include NO funding to restore the funding for specialists that the NCGA’s class size law strips from the schools. Worse, the Senate budget draft also prohibits schools from moving funds from one allotment to another, which has the functional effect of making it illegal for schools to fund specialists.

To see the full impact of the budget, see Public Schools First summary from the committee meeting last Thursday.

What Should You Do This Week?

As always, call your representatives. You can do one of two things:

  1. Email the heads of the appropriations and finance committees to see if we can’t at least slow down the process and try to exert some influence. SCRIPT (suggestion from our friends at RISE Together NC):  I am a constituent calling/writing to urge you to please consider spending more on education programs and less on tax cuts. Please allow more time for debate so that the public has ample time to understand and comment on the budget. Thank you.
  2. Write to Chad Barefoot, Phil Berger, Tim Moore, Craig Horn and to your own senator and representative. Politely but firmly let them know that you are aware of their failure to fund school specialists and how you feel about it. Demand meaningful action from your reps, especially if they say they have no power to make a change. Tell them about how Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, in addition to saying he supports funding for specials, actually stood on the Senate floor and introduced an Amendment to HB-13 that could have helped. In that same deliberation, Senator Horner challenged his own party leaders about where funding for specialists would come from.

Finally, please, keep talking about this. There are still millions of people in NC who have no idea what’s happening here. It can be difficult and uncomfortable, but it is absolutely necessary.