NC leaders agree on budget total, but school funding uncertain

North Carolina Legislature
North Carolina Legislature (file)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Leaders from the North Carolina Senate and House have agreed on how much money will be in the upcoming budget, although they have not reached a final agreement on how it will be spent.

The North Carolina budget will be $21.7 billion. But how the money will be spent remains to be decided.

Much work remains to be done, as traditional calendar schools return next week and and those districts want to know how much money they can spend. Remaining in limbo are future teacher assistants, whose positions are not funded in the Senate budget.

“We’re anxiously awaiting the outcome of the budget,” said Christine Kushner, chair of the Wake County Public Schools.

And it’s no wonder with year-round schools already in session in wake county and traditional calendar schools starting in less than a week.

“We have more than 700 TA’s who’ve already started work with our year-round schools and more coming on Monday and they’re wondering about their jobs and their work going forward,” Kushner said.

The House and Senate have already passed two temporary spending plans since the start of the new fiscal year July 1. The latest expires Aug. 31.

“They’ve agreed on a overall number,” said Rep. Larry Hall, the House minority leader. “The question is going to be what are our priorities going to be in that number.”

“We’re not looking just at today,” said Sen. Dan Soucek, co-chair of the Senate education committee. “We’re looking at what the state will look like in the next decade.  If we don’t control spending, then we’re going to be an out-of-control government that can’t sustain what we’re doing.”

Soucek said it’s a positive that there has been disagreement with Republican leaders and that no plan has just been rubber-stamped.

But Soucek said he knows school systems need answers.

“That’s one of the greatest challenges is that they’ve started the school year,” Soucek said. “ My kids started school this morning.  And to not know exactly what the budget is means you can’t plan for what the school year is going to look like.”

Schools also want to know about funding for driver education in particular.

But, Kushner said, “Our students are going to have a great start to the school year on Monday so that’s what we’re focused on.”

 

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