North Carolina Senate Rejects House Education Budget

The North Carolina State Senate rejected its House of Representatives’ latest education budget on Monday without even voting on it.

Invoking a little-used piece of procedural legislation, the Senate cited a Congressional rule that it can send a spending bill back without a vote if the spending is not balanced.

Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca, a Republican, said the move was designed to send a message to the House, according to an article written by John Frank in the Charlotte News & Observer:

“We are serious about getting a budget deal and it’s time to stop playing games,” Apodaca said.

Despite the dismissal by the Senate, members of the House believe that the budget is balanced and that the debate isn’t over.

“We’re continuing to have discussions. We will move forward,” said Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), the senior co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The 120-member House has previously approved the plan unanimously and it also received an endorsement from Governor Pat McCrory. The ‘mini-budget’, designed to break a stalemate over larger financial issues between the two parts of the legislature, focused on Medicaid spending as a way to devote more dollars to the education system, according to a report filed by Caitlin Knute of Raleigh’s WTVD.

The most recent battle between House and Senate over education spending began just over a month ago when the Senate revealed a $468 million plan to increase teacher spending, but at the cost of the elimination of teacher tenure, as reported by Education News.

Some two weeks later, the House countered with a proposal which would keep tenure intact, and make raises smaller. North Carolina is 47th out of 50 states in terms of average teacher salary.

“Unlike other budgets, this budget has no strings attached to it,” Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes, co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said at a news conference unveiling the chamber’s plan. “You do not have to give up tenure or give up anything to get your pay raise. It’s just automatic.”

That bill came on the heels of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) hosting a job fair in Charlotte designed specifically to lure underpaid teachers to the metropolitan district, which has a starting salary higher than North Carolina’s average one.

A second such job fair was held last week in Raleigh, and according to a report by WGHP-TV, at least 30 teachers accepted offers from HISD”

Onslow County Jennalee Kwezi already has her master’s degree, but in North Carolina, she doesn’t get paid extra for it anymore.

“We had a cost of living bonus this year that was about $300 and, after taxes, it might have been around $190. It was just kind of a slap in the face. It was kind of like, okay, what am I going to do with $190? That’s not even equivalent to one of my student loan payments,” said Kwezi.