Local News

Easley Orders $75 Million To Schools, Despite Stalled Budget Talks

Posted July 20, 2005 3:26 a.m. EDT

— Gov. Mike Easley said Wednesday that North Carolina schools cannot wait any longer for a state budget.

Easley bypassed state lawmakers and ordered the State Budget Office to immediately free up $75 million in additional resources to low-wealth public school districts, at-risk students, teacher recruitment, high school reform and pre-kindergarten reform.

The announcement came just days after the state legislature's efforts to enact a stalled budget for the second time.

"The legislature needs to get on the same calendar as the rest of the state," Easley said. "School is starting next month and these funds must be in place so that we can hire teachers and principals and give students the tools they need to succeed."

The order instructs state agencies to spend money to meet the level of education initiatives he set forth in his budget proposal earlier this year.

That includes $22.5 million for a special fund created last year to help 16 struggling school districts with student improvement and teacher recruitment. Easley also ordered another $16.6 million be set aside to help low-wealth districts who do not have the property-tax base to pay for all its public school needs.

An additional $16.6 million will pay for 3,200 new slots for 4-year-olds in his More at Four preschool program.

Easley said he was convinced that the final budget would include these and other items mentioned in the executive order.

He said he did not believe his pre-emptive move would slow down the budget negotiations. The House and Senate budget proposals did not include all the items, but he said they still enjoy broad support in the General Assembly.

The items also were mentioned in an order released in the spring by Wake Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, who is overseeing the Leandro case, which has led to several court orders demanding the state distribute more money to help lower income and at-risk students.

A court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 9 where state leaders will be asked to document what they are doing for poorer schools.

Easley said the state can now show compliance with the court order and do the right thing for students.