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The budget that Governor McCrory released on Wednesday makes some investments in areas important to children, including 5,000 additional slots in N.C. Pre-K, a small salary increase for teachers, a small appropriation for youth tobacco use prevention and cessation ($1 million, vs. $17 million a couple years ago), and funds for more foster care youth to benefit from higher education.

Yet, over 3,000 teachers’ assistants in the 2nd and 3rd grade would be eliminated under the plan, in order to hire 1,800 teachers.

The budget does not invest enough in children’s programs to bring them back up to the levels before the recession.  As any parent can recognize, handling a classroom of 21-24 seven and eight year old children without an assistant is at the least a daunting task. As a former teacher and recent volunteer in the Wake County Schools, I see first-hand how critical this support is to teachers and  to the retention of quality personnel.  Investments at the beginning of life and in early education yield the greatest return for a lifetime of success: the goal that we all must aspire to.  We can save tremendous resources required later in life to remedy shortfalls in these early years with necessary investments in the best start.  And with the rapid growth that is occurring in our state, we have to get ahead of the problem rather than cutting these critical priorities.

K-12 Education (1.1 percent cut) 

  • Cut: Cuts $117 million from teacher’s assistants, eliminating funding for teacher’s assistants in the second and third grades.
  • Cut: Closes the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching: $2.2 million in 2013-14 and $3.2 million in 2014-15.  
  • Cut: Continues phase-out of Teaching Fellows Scholarship: $3 million in 2013-14 and $6 million in 2014-15.  
  • Expansion: Appropriates $28 million in 2014-15 for the Excellent Public Schools Act, which received a $27 million appropriation for the 2013-14 fiscal year when it was passed last year.
  • Expansion: American College Testing (ACT) Assessments: $7.5 million.
  • Expansion: $26 million in lottery receipts will be used for purchasing reading tablets for schools, to be awarded through a competitive process.
  • Expansion: $320,000 for three additional charter school staff, due to the lifting of the charter school cap.

Child Development and Early Education (2.1 percent increase) 

  • Expansion: Appropriates an additional $9 million in state dollars and directs $17 million in lottery funds to the NC Pre-K program, which should add 5,000 slots for a total of 29,400 children served.

Public Health (8.9 percent cut) 

  • Cut: $8 million cut to Early Intervention. The budget claims that this cut will not affect services, but brings funding down to reflect actual funding levels over the last three years.
  • Expansion: $1 million for tobacco use prevention and cessation.

Social Services (3.7 percent increase) 

  • Expansion: $1.1 million for NC Reach to help pay for 200 more foster care children to attend NC colleges and universities.
  • Expansion: $4.8 million in nonrecurring dollars to help with child welfare administrative costs after reductions in federal funding for administration.
  • Expansion: $2 million for food banks.

Medicaid (4.6 percent increase) 

  • Children under 133 percent of the poverty level are transferred from Health Choice to Medicaid, as per the Affordable Care Act. Much of the Health Choice appropriation is redirected to Medicaid. Approximately 51,000 children will be affected by the shift.

Health Choice (12.5 percent decrease, but most of that is shift of funds to Medicaid) 

  • Expansion: $6.2 million in 2013-14 and $11.2 million in 2014-15 to support anticipated growth in the program. The budget does not mention any caps in Health Choice enrollment. 
  • Redirection: $12.6 million in 2013-14 and $26 million in 2014-15 is redirected to Medicaid to shift 51,000 children under 133 percent of the poverty level from Health Choice to Medicaid. 

Public Safety (specific to Juvenile Justice)

  • Cut: Closes Richmond Detention Center ($400,000). 
  • Cut: $100,000 cut to Youth Development Center operating budgets, due to declining population at YDCs.  
  • Cut?: $737k is “shifted” from administration to Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils and contracted services for youth, but the dollars do not also show up as an expansion for JCPCs, so this one is yet unclear. 
  • Cut: $950,000 cut to “adjust staffing levels” throughout Public Safety. This may or may not affect Juvenile Justice.  
  • Expansion: $316,000 for a new Center for Safer Schools, to provide training and technical support in school safety educators, law enforcement and parents.
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