Where is the NCGA Budget and How Does it Address Early Childhood, Education and Families?

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Update: NC Gov. Roy Cooper approved the $27.9B state budget proposal late afternoon, Monday, July 11, 2022.


There’s been a lot of attention on the North Carolina state budget in Raleigh – and even across the country – and we’re keeping a close eye on it to see how it shakes out for early childhood, education, and families. 

In May, Governor Cooper released his proposed budget and we subsequently did an analysis of that in a blog, How Does Governor Cooper’s Budget Proposal Prioritize Early Childhood? We assessed four features: Empowering Safe, Successful Communities; Ensuring a Sound Basic Education for All Students; Expanding North Carolina’s Workforce; and Expanding Medicaid. 

On June 28, the leaders of the NC General Assembly (NCGA) announced their own budget plan in the form of House Bill 103.

  • Committee Report – The Joint Conference Committee Report on the Current Operations Appropriations Act of 2022, House Bill 103, dated 06/28/2022
  • Bill Text – Proposed Conference Committee Substitute for House Bill 103, Current Operations Appropriations Act of 2022
  • Table of Contents – Proposed Conference Committee Substitute for House Bill 103, Current Operations Appropriations Act of 2022
  • HB 103 Bill Information

Ultimately, just two days later, the Legislature did advance their budget to Governor Cooper. The budget passed both chambers of the NCGA and moved on for Executive review. The Governor then had 10 days from July 1 to either veto it or sign it into law. And the clock is ticking… 

Advocates and reporters at NC Early Education Coalition, EducationNC, Every Child NC, and NC Policy Watch reviewed the budget proposals to compare how funding is proposed to be allocated for education, young children and families. We’ve explored the summaries as we bridge the birth to age four and pre-kindergarten to grade three reporting, thereby providing a full review of birth to age eight implications. Let’s take a closer look at what they had to say.

NC Early Education Coalition

Throughout this legislative session, we have focused on ensuring that children have access to high-quality early learning experiences, that parents can afford child care so that they can work, that early educators can afford to keep teaching, and that child care programs receive adequate funding to sustain their services. 

We believe that the state budget released on June 28, 2022, represents another missed opportunity for early education. North Carolina is facing the quickly-approaching end of federal Covid relief funds for child care programs and families and an increasingly severe early childhood workforce crisis. In light of this year’s record state surpluses, this budget could and should have invested in stable, sustainable policy solutions to ensure that each and every child has the opportunity to grow, learn and succeed. Our young children, families, communities, businesses, economy, and our future are all depending on it.

Graphic from NC Early Education Coalition features three children looking at a book together with a question written below them: What's in the budget for young children, their families, and their educators?
Graphic from NC Early Education Coalition asks: What’s in the budget for young children, their families, and their educators?

The highlight for early childhood programs in this year’s budget is an investment in improving both NC Pre-K and Smart Start. NC Pre-K received $9 million in recurring state funds to raise reimbursement rates, with the intention of increasing compensation for NC Pre-K teachers working in private child care programs. While Smart Start did not receive additional funds in this year’s budget, the budget raises the administrative cap for funds previously allocated, meaning that local partnerships will be able to utilize additional funding to best serve their communities.

However, we are most disappointed to see the lack of funding for early educators. Nearly every industry is facing a workforce crisis, but staffing shortages in child care impact working parents across all trades. Child care teachers are the workforce behind the workforce. The federally-funded Child Care Stabilization Grants have helped increase teacher pay and provide other incentives, but the final quarterly grant payment will be disbursed in January of 2023. Without an increased investment – such as expanding the Child Care WAGE$ program statewide – before that funding runs out, the underlying issues of low compensation, high turnover, and a dwindling workforce pipeline will remain the same and will exacerbate an already precarious situation. With ample state funding available, it is disheartening that the budget does not include this investment in the essential early educators who are teaching and caring for our state’s youngest children. 

The modest increases included in this budget are important, but North Carolina continues to need a budget that invests in the long-term sustainability of a strong early childhood system. We remain committed to working with state policymakers to secure funding to help stabilize and sustain child care programs and teachers and to make child care more accessible for young children and working families across the state.

Here is the full statement from the NC Early Education Coalition and a summary of what’s in this year’s budget for early education


In the final week before the end of the fiscal year, the Republican-led House and Senate agreed to a budget compromise that includes a 4.2% average raise for teachers for 2022-23. The long session budget last year included an average 2.5% pay increase in the second year of the biennium, so the newly proposed pay increase replaces that. The proposed budget also includes a new teacher bonus program that ties the payout to the teacher’s student growth scores.

The legislature is putting $32 million into the School Safety Grant program, including money for school safety training and safety equipment in schools. It also expands access to the opportunity scholarship program, which gives state funds for students to attend private schools.

Every Child NC, a group that advocates for the multi-year Leandro plan, which seeks to get the state in line with its constitutional duty on education, said that this budget only funds about half of what is called for in the plan for the fiscal year.

The full EducationNC analysis, including proposed new teacher salary schedules are in this report: Budget brings teacher pay raises, private school scholarship expansion, and more

Every Child NC

This budget leaves nearly half of this year’s Leandro Plan unfunded and must be rejected. Budget writers must get back to work and present the people of North Carolina with an education budget that meets the bare minimum of what students are owed under our constitution.

The courts – under both Democratic and Republican judges – have been clear: the Leandro Plan is not a menu from which policymakers get to pick and choose. It’s a comprehensive plan that must be enacted in-full to provide students with the education they are owed.

The research has been clear: what state leaders have been doing is not enough. Budgets – like this one – that fail to prioritize our children have been moving our state backwards for over a decade. The resources exist. We must simply make the investments that will allow all of our children to flourish.

NC Policy Watch

NC Policy Watch did two articles, one that was education-specific, Education budget proposal falls short on Leandro and teacher pay, and one that was more overarching, State budget has plenty of surprises, including lots of earmarks and lower raises than state employees wanted

The first commentary article asked two guiding questions of state lawmakers:

  1. Do our schools meet the bare minimum standards of what’s required under our state constitution?
  2. Are we doing a good job of recruiting and retaining great educators?

And their verdict was that it was a budget that fails to provide students what they are constitutionally owed and a budget that cuts educator pay

NC Beginning Teacher Salaries (inflation-adjusted)
Source: NC Policy Watch


Education and family notes from the second commentary article include:

The budget includes raises for teachers that average 4.2%, with a range of 2.5% to 7%.  

Budget writers said the budget has $806 million in spending that would count toward the $998 million needed this year to satisfy the plan to have the state meet its constitutional obligation to ensure all children have access to a sound basic education. A consultant developed the plan that would have the state comply with the ruling in a court case dating back to 1994 called Leandro. 

Last year, Superior Court Judge David Lee ordered the state to put $1.7 billion toward Leandro funding. Republican legislators objected. The state Court of Appeal blocked the order, saying Lee could not require the transfer of state money. The state Supreme Court will hear the case in August.  

Public school advocates said the amount in the budget for Leandro compliance was considerably lower than Republicans maintain. The budget does expand the state’s controversial private school voucher program to more children by raising the family income eligibility limit to about $103,000 a year for a family of four.


Now, we wait to see how it all turns out and what will result for our state’s youngest residents, their families, and educators. Stay tuned. We’re watching out for them, as we know you are, too.