Senate teacher compromise offer contrasts with McCrory emphasis on local control

SchoolBusPublicSchoolsRALEIGH – Gov. Pat McCrory reiterated Tuesday that he thinks local control is the best way to handle education funding decisions. In June, McCrory told a statewide confab of business and education leaders that he thinks those decisions should be left to individual schools.

“Why not let each school make this decision? Each school might have their own different needs,” McCrory said at the time. Tuesday, McCrory told reporters that funding teacher assistants is important, but that he would rather give schools the flexibility to make that call.

The reported budget compromise plan, proposed Monday by Senate budget negotiators, moves in the opposite direction from the governor’s stated preference. While offering to drop the idea of shifting funding toward teachers and away from teacher assistants, Senate leaders say they want to explicitly tie the money to hiring TAs. The compromise offer also included funding for driver’s education programs, another difference between the two chambers’ budgets.

“We’re certainly pleased that the Senate has finally come around to understand that you need teacher assistants in the classroom,” Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) said Tuesday. “But the details of the Senate’s offer are being digested. There are additional conversations and clarifications about specifics, and those conversations are ongoing.”

Earmarking the funds for TAs alone would ensure that districts cannot shift to funds to pay for other uses, as has happened in the past. But it would also prevent McCrory from putting a policy preference into action. Moore said that whether education funding is earmarked for certain purposes or local officials have flexibility is “still being discussed between Senate and House negotiators.”

In North Carolina, K-12 education is largely outside of a governor’s control, since almost all decisions are made through local districts and school boards, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education. One of the few ways a governor can influence public schools is through the budget approval process, but it is unknown whether McCrory lobbied the General Assembly for more local control or whether other priorities took precedence.

What is clear is that McCrory has been consistent in his support for local control. At the June event, when an audience member asked what he thought about funding teachers versus teacher assistants, McCrory did not hesitate to answer.

“I like not having politicians inside the Beltline making that decision,” McCrory said.