RALEIGH – Raises for public school teachers and state employees are welcome, as is money to accommodate growing numbers of university students. So higher education leaders praised the 2018-19 state budget adopted last week by the NC General Assembly.
The budget “builds on the UNC System’s strongest budget in a decade and provides an additional 6% increase in total funding, ensuring that we can grow our historic role as an engine of opportunity for every North Carolinian,” said UNC System President Margaret Spellings.1
With NC teacher salaries ranked 37th in the nation and 6th in the Southeast,2 nearly 20,000 teachers marched in the state capital on the opening day of the legislative session.
Afterward, legislators bumped up average teacher raises for 2018-19 from the 6.2% they approved last year to 6.5%.3 Though legislators did not match the 8% average raise proposed by Gov. Roy Cooper,4 the 6.5% increase should continue to improve North Carolina’s standing in national rankings of teacher pay. NC teachers last received average raises of at least 6.5% in 2014 (7%) and 2006 (8%).5
It’s also admirable that legislators raised the salaries of the least-paid state employees to a minimum of $31,200 – the equivalent of $15 an hour.
It remains to be seen what $20 million allocated for raises among university employees and $24 million for community-college employee raises will mean for faculty and staff paychecks.6 Legislators left allocation of those raises to the UNC Board of Governors and the State Board of Community Colleges.7
Legislators did find an additional $1 million for the UNC Faculty Recruitment and Retention Fund.8 But to continue to attract and keep the best instructors to teach our students, we hope legislators will take a strategic look at university and community-college faculty salaries during their 2019 session.
NC Community College System President Peter Hans praised $14.7 million in new funds legislators provided for short-term workforce training to award industry credentials.9
“Colleges can start – and students can complete – workforce continuing education programs more quickly than traditional academic programs, enabling colleges to be even more responsive to new technologies and economic conditions. But historically, workforce training has been funded at lower levels than our curriculum programs,” Hans said.
The additional funds for workforce training create better balance “so we can help create opportunities for more North Carolinians,” he said.
Spellings also praised legislators’ $9 million investment in university data modernization, as well as an additional $1 million for UNC Lab Schools and $51 million for NC Promise, which will offer in-state tuition of $500 a semester starting this fall at Western Carolina University, Elizabeth City State and UNC Pembroke.10
In other highlights, the budget provides:
- $95 million for projected enrollment of new students in the UNC System.
- $32 million for repairs and renovations of buildings across the UNC System – down-payment on an enormous backlog of deferred maintenance.
- An additional $4.8 million for the UNC School of Medicine’s Asheville Campus, for total funding of $15.4 million.
- $4.8 million to pay for surgical and family medicine residencies at the Southern Regional Area Health Education Center in Fayetteville.
- $15 million for construction of the Morganton campus of the NC School of Science and Mathematics.
- Almost $1 million for tuition grants for graduates of the School of Science and Math – arguably the state’s brightest – to attend UNC System schools.
- $16.5 million for replacement of an outdated steam plant at Western Carolina University.
- An additional $6 million for construction of a new Business School at UNC Pembroke.
- An additional $8.6 million for a new Business School at NC Central University.
- $2.8 million for renovation of Owens and Carmichael Halls at UNC Asheville.
- $4 million for a Regional Advanced Manufacturing Center at Cleveland Community College.
- $2 million for NC State University to participate in a national effort to accelerate development of biopharmaceuticals.
- Restoration of a $500,000 cut approved last year to the UNC School of Law.11
7https://ncleg.net/Sessions/2017/Budget/2018/S99-CCSMMxr-2_v2.pdf, pp. 196-197.
8https://ncleg.net/Sessions/2017/Budget/2018/conference_committee_report_2018_05_28.pdf, p. B31.
9https://ncleg.net/Sessions/2017/Budget/2018/conference_committee_report_2018_05_28.pdf, p. B22.
11https://ncleg.net/Sessions/2017/Budget/2018/conference_committee_report_2018_05_28.pdf, pp. B31-B39, I7-I10; https://ncleg.net/Sessions/2017/Budget/2018/S99-CCSMMxr-2_v2.pdf, pp. 211-212.