House and Senate miles apart on state spending

June 7, 2013 

Teacher Brian Pattison and Gabriela Martinez-Maciel, center, work on a math problem as his 4th grade students participate in a hands-on math class at the Lake Myra Elementary School in Wendell, N.C. on Tuesday, May 14, 2013.

COREY LOWENSTEIN — clowenst@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • Where House-Senate diverge

    Here are some of the key differences between the House and Senate plans.

    K-12

    The House budget provides money for a new voucher program and restores some teacher programs that were on the Senate chopping block. The cut in teacher assistants would be much less severe than proposals from Gov. Pat McCrory and the Senate. The budget keeps class-size limits in kindergarten through third grades.

    The House plan provides $10 million the first year, rising to $40 million in 2014-15, for what supporters call “opportunity scholarships” for low-income families to send their children to private schools. It would cut $12 million from the public schools the first year and $36 million the second, assuming that families would take advantage of the $4,200-a-year scholarships.

    The House proposal would reinstate the Teaching Fellows program, which provides college scholarships to top students who go into teaching in North Carolina. The program was being phased out, but the House proposal would recruit a new class of fellows beginning in 2014-15. It would phase out supplements for teachers based on graduate degrees, except for those who need an advanced degree for their licenses.

    Other K-12 highlights:

    • Cuts $12 million the first year, growing to $36 million in 2014-15 to account for the loss of students who would use vouchers to attend private schools

    • Spends $10 million next year and $40 million in 2014-15 for students to attend private schools

    • Keeps the current school district flex cut in place at $376 million next year and reduces it to $368 million in 2014-15

    •  Reduces teacher assistant funding by 4 percent ($25 million) in 2013-14 and 5 percent ($29 million) in 2015-16, funding assistants in K-3 classrooms based on student headcount

    • Phases out salary supplements for teachers who earn advanced degrees, cutting nearly $19 million in 2014-15

    • Spends nearly $19 million in 2013-14 and $5 million to carry out changes proposed in reform package

    • 

    Funds the ACT testing program with $7.5 million

    • Reduces funding for school bus replacement by $30 million next year and $39 million in 2014-15 by changing the standards for when buses are replaced

    Provides $690,000 to buy safety cameras to deter school bus stop arm violators

    • Spends $10 million for school safety officers in elementary and middle schools, and $2 million to install panic alarms in public schools

    • Provides $2.5 million for a pilot program of grants for innovations in education

    • Spends $1.5 million next year and $16 million to defray student fees and give bonuses to teachers for students completing Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

    Provides $320,000 for the state’s Office of Charter Schools and cuts Department of Public Instruction by $520,000

    • Gives Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina $464,100 in each year of the two-year budget to administer a grant program to develop 12 rural charter schools

    • Provides $500,000 for Teach for America

    UNC System

    • Mandates a cut of $125 million next year and $67 million in 2014-15, substantially more than the Senate proposed. The cuts would be decided by the campuses but cannot be taken across the board.

    • Diverts students from the UNC system to the Community College System, reducing the UNC budget by $12.6 million in 2014-15.

    • Increases tuition 12.3 percent for out-of-state students at UNC School of the Arts, N.C. A&T State, N.C. State, UNC Charlotte, UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC Wilmington. At other campuses, the increase would be 6 percent for out-of-state students. The increases would take effect in 2014-15 and are similar to those proposed by Gov. Pat McCrory. The Senate did not increase tuition.

    • Provides new funding for UNC’s planned strategic initiatives, including: $6 million to increase degree earners; $3.4 million for research next year, rising to $22 million in 2014-15; $5 million next year to improve academic quality; $2 million next year to streamline operations.

    • Cuts $10 million next year and $15 million in 2014-15 in administrative and operational efficiencies

    • Cuts $16 million next year and $21 million in 2014-15 in instructional efficiencies, including changes in class size and improved transferability of course credits.

    • Cuts $1.9 million in 2014-15 in savings from eliminating or consolidating duplicative academic programs.

    Eliminates a $15 million reserve for the UNC School of Medicine.

    • Phases out the UNC tuition grant for graduates of the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics.

    • Reduces by $3 million a revolving loan program for teachers who seek National Board Certification.

    • Provides an additional $3 million for UNC-need based grant fund

    Community colleges

    • Modifies funding formula, shifting it from a three-year enrollment average to a two-year average, resulting in a $20 million reduction and a one-time funding of $550,000 to phase in the reduction for colleges most affected.

    • Creates NC Guaranteed Admission Program, shifting some UNC admitted students with lowest qualifications to community colleges for the first two years of college. An enrollment reserve of $4 million would be available to community colleges in 2014-15.

    Increases tuition by $2.50 per credit hour to $71.50 per credit hour for residents and $263.50 for nonresidents. Increases fees for continuing education by $5 per course.

    • Eliminates tuition waiver for senior citizens, saving $970,000

    • Partially restores previous reductions with $9 million next year and $12 million in 2014-15.

    •  Diverts some regular funding, $7.5 million for curriculum programs and $1.5 million for continuing education, to a pool to reward good performance at colleges.

    • Provides $10 million for equipment next year

    • Cuts $2 million in customized training

    •  Reduces travel in the Community College System office by $120,000 and eliminates the audit service division, including seven jobs

    •  Provides additional $4.5 million in need-based scholarships for private college students

    Justice and public safety

    • The House splits from the Senate by leaving the State Bureau of Investigation in the state Department of Justice. The House would, however, take the state crime lab away from the SBI by moving it into a separate part of the department, making a clear distinction between law enforcement and forensic analysis of evidence. Both would remain under the control of the attorney general.

    The Senate budget moves the SBI into the state Department of Public Safety, which is led by a political appointee of the governor’s.

    • The House spares the 12 special superior court judges targeted for elimination in the Senate. This has been a sticking point between the two chambers since the House removed it from a Senate bill earlier this year.

    • The big-ticket item is spending $25 million to upgrade the state highway patrol’s communications system. Another $7 million would be spent over three years to complete construction of 29 towers for the system, known as VIPER. Three communications centers would be closed and 18 telecommunicators transferred.

    • Closes prisons in Duplin, Robeson and Wayne counties, the Western Youth Institution and the North Piedmont Correctional Center for Women, but spares the Orange and Bladen county prisons, which are also closed under the Senate budget. It would convert the Johnston Correctional Institution from medium security to minimum custody. And it closes youth detention facilities in Lenoir, Richmond and Buncombe counties.

    Other public safety highlights

    • Eliminates 1,537 positions, mainly due to prison and detention center closings. Makes reductions totaling $59 million over two years.

    • Rejects the Senate’s proposal to eliminate the state’s $2.89 million contract with Prisoner Legal Services, and instead cuts its budget by 10 percent to reflect the declining prison population.

    • Allocates $4 million to Indigent Defense Services to pay private attorneys.

    • Saves $5 million in each of the next two years in the Department of Public Safety by identifying continued savings from the consolidation of public safety, juvenile justice and adult correction last year.

    • Spends $850,000 in each of the next two years to upgrade the badly deteriorated state National Guard centers.

    • Budgets all 69 vacant state trooper positions.

    Health and Human Services

    • Keeps open the state’s three alcohol and drug treatment centers and the Wright School for children with severe emotional and behavioral problems. The Senate voted to close those.

    • Keeps the oral health section at the state Department of Health and Human Services, which the Senate eliminated.

    • Uses $24.8 million in lottery money to add 5,000 slots to N.C. Pre-K. Income eligibility would be lowered to 130 percent of the federal poverty level. It’s now at about 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The Senate transfers 2,500 pre-school slots to the child care subsidy program.

    • Keeps pregnant women eligible for Medicaid in the government health insurance program. The Senate moves pregnant women with incomes above 133 percent of federal poverty level off Medicaid and into health insurance plans purchased from an exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act.

    The House budget provides $8 million in short-term assistance for people with mental disabilities living in group homes.

    Other Health and Human Services highlights:

    • Spends $434 million to adjust Medicaid budget for inflation and changes in enrollment.

    • Cuts $15.2 million in administrative funds from local mental health offices.

    • Spends $11.5 million to outfit Broughton Hospital, the new state psychiatric hospital in Morganton.

    • Cuts $3.7 million by limiting doctors’ visits for adults on Medicaid to 10 each year, down from 22, beginning Jan. 1. People with chronic illness are exempt.

    Closes four of the 16 Child Development Service Agencies.

    Commerce and Environment

    • The House fully funds the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, an independent nonprofit created by the state, at $16.6 million in the coming fiscal year and increases the funding the following year. McCrory proposed reducing the center’s funds and the Senate wants to defund it and transfer its functions to the state government.

    • Both the House and Senate proposals cut funding for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the agency that provides amenities for North Carolina’s hunters, boater and outdoorsmen. But while the Senate wants to cut $9 million a year from commission, the House would cut $4 million in year one and half as much the next year.

    Other Commerce and Environment highlights:

    • Like the Senate’s proposal creates four staff positions to assist the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission, which is writing regulations to govern fracking.

    • Funds the Clean Water Management Trust Fund at $4 million the first year and $9 million the following year. The Senate version dismantles the fund and transfers its functions to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

    • Eliminates funding for the N.C. Biofuels Center, Community Development Initiative, Council on Governments, Institute of Minority Economic Development, Indian Economic Development Initiative and Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine.

  • More information

    Staff writers Jane Stancill, Lynn Bonner, Craig Jarvis and John Murawski

lbonner@newsobserver.com

State House and Senate leaders will be looking to bridge wide gaps in their views on how the state should spend its money on education, health and criminal justice.

As expected, no sections of the proposed House and Senate budget proposals match exactly. But chunks of the proposed House budget released Friday show the chambers have significantly different ideas for how public education in the state should look, from pre-kindergarten through college.

The House budget includes a plan to begin offering taxpayer money to low-income families next year to pay children’s private school tuition. The House also restores class-size limits for public school in kindergarten though third grades, a policy the Senate budget abolishes.

In higher education, the House wants to divert some of the least qualified UNC system freshmen to community colleges beginning in 2014 .

The diversion plan, called the N.C. Guaranteed Admission Program, would have students attend a community college for two years and be guaranteed admission as a transfer student to the original UNC campus they had planned to attend. The budget plan subtracts almost $13 million from the UNC system in 2014-15 for the program, and adds $4 million to the community college system.

It’s a new idea, said Jennifer Haygood, chief financial officer for the state Community College System, and the community colleges and the UNC system would have to figure out how to make it work.

But the community colleges have space for more college transfer students, she said, and both UNC and community college officials want a way for more North Carolinians to earn degrees at less taxpayer and student cost.

While many details were released and debated Friday, some of the big picture remains unknown. Budget writers would not give a total for their spending package, or say whether it will include raises for teachers and state employees.

“There are a lot of things we’re working to finalize,” said Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican and a chief House budget writer. The Senate’s $20.6 billion plan, which it passed last month, does not include across-the-board raises for teachers or other state employees. Gov. Pat McCrory put 1 percent raises in his budget proposal.

The House is expected to release its entire budget Sunday and approve it later in the week. House and Senate negotiators would then work out their budget differences.

In education funding, the UNC system fared the worst. Already committed to efficiencies as part of its strategic plan, the 17 campuses would sustain another big cut, plus a significant tuition increase for out-of-state students.

After double-digit percentage cuts in 2011, UNC’s funding had flattened but the system recently adopted a five-year plan that called for new investments targeted to pumping up the percentage of degree-holders in North Carolina. Though the House provided some new money for the new priorities, there was more bad news than good news for the universities.

UNC system spokeswoman Joni Worthington didn’t have much to say about the budget, but promised UNC officials will talk next week after it passes.

The controversial voucher plan survived one effort Friday to cut it from the budget.

Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, which has been working for several years to get vouchers approved, praised the move and the bipartisan support it attracted. Though most Democrats oppose vouchers, two Democrats are prominent supporters.

The organization “is extremely pleased that state leaders continue to support the possibility for low-income and working-class children across North Carolina to access schools that could meet their academic needs,” President Darrell Allison said in a statement.

Public Schools First NC, which has been fighting vouchers since the session started, said the plan should not have been rolled into the budget.

“This radical new entitlement program would give hard-earned taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools and would be a major policy shift and already faced significant opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike, said Natalie Beyer, a Public School First volunteer board member, in a statement.

Bonner: 919-829-4821

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