Easley said deep cuts in the education budget are not acceptable.
"I want to send a signal to the teachers: 'You worry about teaching, you let me worry about the budget,'" he said. "We are not going to cut your classroom."
Easley's education budget will continue to reduce class size in kindergarten and first-grade, expand the More At Four program and keep bonuses for ABC teachers.
Easley's budget for education also calls for cuts next year of $290 million, not the $700 million that the state legislature has discussed.
"Obviously, we do not want to scare educators and have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that absolutely we will do everything we can not to cut the classroom and assure that the resources are there," said Sen. Howard Lee, D-Orange.
"I am in concert with the governor as far as not wanting to cut down to the classroom in education. We want to do everything we can to not take education backward," said state House Speaker Jim Black.
Gov. Mike Easley is also making another pitch on a statewide lottery. He said both Black and state Senate leader Marc Basnight have agreed in principle to an education lottery. He also said state lawmakers have three options.
"The legislature is going to be forced to do one of three things; either an education lottery or a large tax increase or deep cuts in education," Easley said. "House Speaker (Jim) Black and Sen. (Marc) Basnight are not going to make deep cuts in education. They are committed to sticking with me on that, and they are both willing to go forward on an education lottery. They do not want a tax increase nor do I."
Easley said an education lottery can help pull the state out of the red, but other states say do not count on it.
Over the last fiscal year, 20 states saw lottery profits fall. In 15 states, sales dropped. For instance, Ohio is on track to have the biggest decline in the nation.
This year, Ohio's lotery left the schools $52 million short of the $664 million goal. That state is not alone. Indiana's sales are off 6-percent, and Wisconsin hit a 10-year low last year.
Easley is also pushing state lawmakers to pass the lottery without a referendum because those who want it want it so strongly, that there is not a need for it. Without the referendum, Easley said the money could begin coming into the state this year.
Easley is also planning to propose a workforce reduction in state employees and giving local governments authority to impose a half-cent sales tax a year early.