North Carolina Republicans Lead the Way on Education Funding, School Choice, and College Affordability

When Republicans gained the majority in the General Assembly more than a decade ago, they set a course to increase funding for education, expand school choice, raise teacher pay, and tackle college affordability.

Their efforts have paid off. The result is a reliable funding model that delivered nine consecutive teacher raises and record investments in education. Recently, U.S. News ranked North Carolina the seventh-best state for education in the nation.

The Republican-led General Assembly has committed historic levels of funding toward education. During the last few years of Democratic control, K-12 education funding was $7 billion, teachers were furloughed, and their pay was frozen.

Education-related funding accounts for nearly 60% of the state’s budget and K-12 funding alone is more than $11 billion. The sizeable increase in funding reflects a dedication to providing North Carolina students with a world-class education.

Time and time again Democrats have voted against pay raises and Gov. Cooper has vetoed them. Despite those efforts, the General Assembly implemented nine consecutive teacher pay raises, amounting to more than a 35% average increase in pay.*

As the General Assembly methodically increased teacher pay, it also created a new state-funded supplement to help school districts recruit and retain teachers. The $170 million fund provides lower-wealth counties the opportunity to increase salaries to levels near what urban counties can offer.

School choice remains a top priority for Republicans in the General Assembly. After gaining the majority, Republicans went to work to remove the artificial cap on charter schools and established the Opportunity Scholarship program, which provides scholarships for low- to middle-income families to send their children to a private school that best fits their needs. The most recent state budget included $56 million in recurring funding to meet increased demand for the scholarship.

In 2016, to help make higher education more affordable, the General Assembly created the N.C. Promise program, which guarantees $500 per semester in-state undergraduate tuition at three of the state’s University System institutions. Since then, enrollment has increased at all three institutions and a fourth has been added to the program.

Additionally, the General Assembly established a fixed tuition rate for UNC System students. That means a freshman will pay the same tuition rate for all four years of their undergraduate education. Republicans also capped the amount that fees can increase each year. Earlier this year, the UNC System announced that in-state tuition would not increase for the seventh consecutive year.

“Over the last decade, the Republican-led General Assembly has charted a strong path forward for North Carolina’s education system,” Senate Education Committee Chairman Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) said. “From increasing funding and teacher pay, to giving parents a say in their child’s education, and making higher education more affordable, Republicans have been at the forefront. It’s imperative that we focus our attention on the needs of students so they can continue to receive a top-notch education.”

*Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the cumulative average teacher pay increases since 2014–15.

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Press releases from N.C. Senate Republicans and Senate Leader Phil Berger