© 2024 WFAE

Mailing Address:
8801 J.M. Keynes Dr. Ste. 91
Charlotte NC 28262
Tax ID: 56-1803808
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NC Democrats say the GOP Senate budget dismantles public education

State Sen. Rachel Hunt, D-Mecklenburg, speaks at a Tuesday news conference on education spending.
Courtesy of Rachel Hunt's office
State Sen. Rachel Hunt, D-Mecklenburg, speaks at a Tuesday news conference on education spending.

Two Democratic legislators and public school advocates gathered in Raleigh Tuesday to blast Republican spending plans and urge a bigger investment in public education.

“Republicans are pushing the most radical defunding of public education we have ever seen in this state,” Rep. Julie Von Haefen, a Wake County Democrat, said at a morning news conference. “We have to look no further than the Senate budget just released late last night to see their priorities.”

Monday night, the state Senate released a budget plan that includes teacher raises that GOP leaders said would average 4.5% over the coming two years. Beginning teachers would get the biggest bumps. Democrats contested those calculations, saying the average would be even lower and would not keep pace with inflation.

Von Haefen and Sen. Rachel Hunt, a Mecklenburg Democrat, also blasted a Republican plan to increase spending on Opportunity Scholarships, vouchers that provide public money to pay private school tuition. The scholarships were introduced to help low- and moderate-income families find alternatives to public schools, but new bills would allow families at all income levels to get vouchers. It’s a model GOP leaders call “backpack funding,” where the money follows the students and parents are viewed as the ultimate judge of school quality.

“They have shown us who they are and what they value. They are anti-public education. They are anti-teacher. And they are anti-student,” Hunt said. “We have to look no further than the Senate budget, which proposes an additional $2.23 billion over the next 10 years to private school vouchers. A budget that proposes an average teacher raise of 3.7%, despite inflation rising 6.5% over the biennium.”

The news conference was part of Leandro Day at the General Assembly, with Every Child NC and other advocates urging Republican lawmakers to comply with court orders to increase spending for public schools. State officials have been fighting the Leandro lawsuit on adequate education funding since 1994. In March, the state Supreme Court, with a newly elected Republican majority, reversed an earlier ruling and said the state did not have to release additional money.

Hunt and Von Haefen touted Democratic-sponsored bills that would increase spending for early childhood programs, K-12 education and higher education.

Sign up for our Education Newsletter

Select Your Email Format

Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.