Local Politics

Easley Unlocks $114 Million for Schools

Posted July 20, 2007

State budget

— As lawmakers continue haggling over an annual budget, Gov. Mike Easley on Friday ordered that up to $114 million in state funds be released to school districts statewide to help them prepare for the coming school year.

Expressing frustration with the slow progress in budget negotiations between House and Senate lawmakers, Easley called every day without a budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year "wasted time."

The state has been operating on a temporary budget since the new fiscal year began July 1.

"We have put some of our schools in a real bind. As a result of that, I'm taking action," he said. "The rest of the state is on June 30th time. They need those dollars by that date. We're almost a month past that now, and I consider that wasted time."

Lawmakers aren't close to a budget that he would sign, Easley said, noting that any effort to keep a quarter-cent sales tax in the budget needs to be tied to education spending. The tax was adopted several years ago to help the state balance its budget during an economic slowdown.

“If I saw indications that we would have a budget next week that I could sign, I would have waited until the first of the week,” he said. “School is starting soon and we need to get contracts in place so we can hire teachers and make sure our children have the tools they need to succeed.”

Easley wants to direct $59 million from the General Fund to the More at Four pre-kindergarten program, $37 million to reduce class sizes and $17.6 million to help districts work with disadvantaged students.

Traditional-calendar schools statewide start classes in about five weeks, and he said school administrators need the money to hire teachers and finalize plans.

Some budget negotiators, including Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, didn't take kindly to the governor's comments. They maintained a budget deal is near.

"The governor has never been a legislator before, and he doesn't know what the process is," Michaux said. "I don't see what the complaint is. We're going to have a budget out of here."

"I think he was sort of teasing us, picking at us a little bit," said Sen. Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth. "But these are complicated issues."

In addition to using the sales tax for education, Easley said he also wants to see Medicaid funding relief for counties rolled into the budget and a local option for a property transfer tax to help pay for schools, water lines and roads.

Most senators oppose the transfer tax, which would be assessed on every home sale.

"The tax would be put on current residents, and that's fundamentally unfair," said Rick Zechini, director of regulatory affairs for the North Carolina Association of Realtors.

The organization has waged a massive campaign to defeat the tax, and Easley said he thinks most lawmakers are afraid to take on the powerful lobby to complete the budget.

"I think a lot of the legislators over there are scared of the Realtors," he said.


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  • enderby Jul 22, 2007

    Educator - I have to agree with Nancy about the report. Also, I hate to burst your bubble, but children who truly need special programs preK can get an IEP and get help through the school system without this daycare program. I know - I am a parent who needed it for my son.

  • www.CaryYardSales.com Jul 22, 2007

    Thanks Mike!

  • buckaroo24 Jul 21, 2007

    he put 10% in his pocket.

  • Nancy Jul 21, 2007

    gooddayfolks - thanks! That's what I was looking for. It would seem that the outcome is like a preschool program that teaches children basic skills.

    What is sad to me, is that the skills being taught in the More at Four program is what children normally got at home. Letter recognition, color recognition, number recognition.

    When my two young adult children were 3-4 years old I enrolled them in a co-op preschool because I could and what I wanted them to get out of it was the socialization. I happily spent time with them on numbers/letter/colors.

    I guess we can't expect that from parents anymore for some reason. Don't need to be rich to teach these rudimentary skills.

  • gooddayfolks Jul 21, 2007


    Nancy- try this one...

  • djofraleigh Jul 21, 2007

    Gov. Easley has said that the earlier the kids are out of the home the better, for some homes don’t prepare their children for school. What does that say to a parent? I’m not saying he is wrong, either.

  • seeingthru Jul 21, 2007

    I just got my property tax bill ggggggrrrrrrrhhhh, a whopping 77.327% is going to the schools I want to throttle someone.

  • Nancy Jul 21, 2007

    "Google works: http://www.fpg.unc.edu/~mafeval/ for the annual evaluation of the More at Four program. (Select Publications at the left.)"

    That's only related to contracts with and how the system is set up, not an outcome based report on success of the program. Thanks though.

  • mlmt4 Jul 21, 2007

    Google works: http://www.fpg.unc.edu/~mafeval/ for the annual evaluation of the More at Four program. (Select Publications at the left.)

  • Nancy Jul 21, 2007

    "Research shows that if start at risk 4 year olds before they enter the public school system, they are more likely to succeed."

    Again, is there a study of this More and Four program showing it has garnered any such outcome here in NC? It's been in practice 4 years now, surely there is a measure of it's success somewhere? I can't find it. Seems people are using general "research has proven" comments but nothing specific to our spending on such a program here in NC.