Legislature Already on Track to Exceed Leandro Recommended Education Spending

The Leandro report recommends upping K-12 budget by cumulative $6.8 billion over eight years

Over PREVIOUS eight years, K-12 budget has increased by cumulative $9.2 billion

Based on that trajectory, legislature will EXCEED Leandro recommendation

Raleigh, N.C. — Since 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly has intentionally and methodically increased K-12 education funding by a total of $9.2 billion.

Based on that trajectory, the K-12 education budget will increase by a projected $11.8 billion over the next eight years — nearly double the increase recommended in the WestEd report produced for the Leandro case.

But Senator, I always hear that education is under-funded, so how could this be possible?

Here are the K-12 education funding numbers for the last nine years:*
2010–11: $7.283 billion
2011–12: $7.617 billion
2012–13: $7.844 billion
2013–14: $7.920 billion
2014–15: $8.171 billion
2015–16: $8.517 billion
2016–17: $8.777 billion
2017–18: $9.047 billion
2018–19: $9.545 billion
(Source: Fiscal Research Division)

The K-12 education budget increased by an average of 3.3% per year from 2011 to 2018. Assuming that rate of growth continues into the next decade, the K-12 education budget will increase by a total of $11.8 billion from 2020 to 2028.

Here are the projected totals:
2020–21: $10.18 billion**
2021–22: $10.410 billion
2022–23: $10.755 billion
2023–24: $11.111 billion
2024–25: $11.478 billion
2025–26: $11.858 billion
2026–27: $12.250 billion
2027–28: $12.656 billion
(Source: Fiscal Research Division)

The authorized education budget in effect right now ($9.75 billion) is lower than it should be (which is the appropriated figure, $9.86 billion) because Governor Cooper vetoed the budget. That may change soon if Senate Democrats override the veto. In any event, the cumulative K-12 budget increase (using 2019’s vetoed K-12 education budget as a baseline) totals $11.8 billion.

The Leandro report recommended a cumulative K-12 budget increase of just $6.8 billion.

Senator Deanna Ballard (R-Watauga) said, “The WestEd report’s recommendation is not only achievable — we’re already on the path to exceed it. Still, the data shows that money doesn’t buy outcomes. Utah spends less per pupil than us and has better scores, while New York spends more per pupil and has worse scores.

“The fact that we’re already executing many of the WestEd policy recommendations and on track to exceed its funding recommendation gives me optimism that we can approach education policy over the next decade with a united front.”

Note: When adjusting the trend line for inflation, the legislature is still on track to exceed the Leandro recommendation.

* These figures represent the more conservative measure of education spending increases: the authorized K-12 education budget, not the appropriated K-12 education budget. If the analysis were instead conducted using the appropriated K-12 education budget, the projected increase would be even larger.

**This figure is the appropriated amount from the vetoed budget. It will be slightly lower if the budget is not enacted before the 2020–21 school year. The difference does not significantly impact the projected K-12 education budget total over the next eight years.

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