The Public School Forum's Friday Report

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					 The Public School Forum’s Friday Report
Volume 3, Issue 3                                                          July 27, 2001

The State Budget Watch . . .

                     Light At the End of the Tunnel?
   After a six hour debate, the House Finance Committee by a vote of 18-13, passed a
House leadership plan that combines tax increases with tax relief in a package that could
offer the General Assembly a way to balance the budget, avoid draconian cuts in state
services and maintain the state’s AAA bond rating. While the Committee vote clears the
way for the House to break the logjam that has existed since the Senate sent its budget to
the House on May 31, it remains unclear whether House leaders can muster a majority of
the members of the House to support the new package.

   The tax plan approved by the House Finance Committee has received extensive
coverage in the media. The new package would increase income taxes on those in the
state’s highest tax brackets. At the same time it would increase credits for dependents
and eliminate the current so-called marriage penalty, a tax break for hundreds of
thousands of taxpayers. It would give counties the authority to impose a ½ cent sales tax,
relieving the state of over $300 million in annual obligations to counties. And it would
make alcohol sales subject to a 6% sales tax.

  The next chapter in the 2001 Session of the General Assembly will revolve around
how House leaders opt to move forward. They could send the finance proposals to the
conferees for inclusion in the compromise budget package and make the final vote a vote
on the entire revenue and expenditure package. Or they could have a separate vote on the
proposed tax package.

   One thing is certain. The 2001 Session is shaping up to be potentially one of the
longest on record. Lobbyists who have worked in the General Assembly for years
estimate that the earliest the Session could end would be somewhere in the August 17th-
20th range – and that presumes quick action on the budget. It also presumes that the long-
deferred debate on redistricting doesn’t hit a roadblock in either house. A Labor Day
adjournment would seem to be a safer bet.

Honoring The “No Tax” Pledge . . .

           Defying History or Principled Government?
Editorial Comment

   At the bottom of the legislative logjam, which has now dragged on for eight weeks, is
pressure from Citizens for a Sound Economy, a new and relatively small organization
that architected the “no tax” pledge signed by 61 of the 120 members of the House. The
organization is holding the signers’ feet to the fire on the principle of “but you made a
commitment,” even though the pledges were signed when it appeared that the state’s
revenue would continue increasing at a healthy clip.

   Their logic would have kept members of Congress opposed to U.S. involvement in the
Pacific theater against war with Japan – even after Pearl Harbor caught the country
napping. Thankfully, members of Congress opposed to U.S. engagement in wars on both
sides of the globe, quickly realized that things change – events make previous stands

  In the midst of this budget debate, no one is denying that the state is at an economic
crossroads. There is a budget crisis. The national economy guarantees that the crisis will
not go away in a matter of weeks or months.

   Unfortunately, the argument turns not on “no tax” pledges made when it appeared the
state’s revenue picture was rosy, but on two basically different views of government. On
one side are groups, like Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Locke Foundation, that
cling to the view that “he who governs least, governs best.” On the other side are those
that believe North Carolina will flourish and grow only if the state has a sound
infrastructure and adequate services in areas like education, health, and transportation.

  Hopefully, signers of the “no tax” pledge will see the debate for what it is - a
philosophical, and ultimately political, struggle between those who disdain government
and those who believe that government has an obligation to leave behind a better state for
those who will follow. Things change. Pearl Harbors, like economic slumps, happen.

State News

      Public School Facility Survey Finds $6.2 Billion in
       Construction Needed Over the Next Five Years
   Next week members of the State Board of Education will receive the results of the
five-year facility needs survey required by law every five years. The results of the survey
underscore the degree to which schools in rapidly growing counties are still coping with
dramatic increases in student growth while those in other counties are faced with
renovation and repair backlogs.

                School Facility Needs Survey (cont’d)
   The survey finds that there are $6.2 billion in construction needs facing local schools
over the next five years. Of that roughly 33% is for new schools, 30% for additions to
existing schools, 28% for renovation of existing schools, 8% for new equipment and
furniture and 1% for land acquisition.

  Driving much of the facility needs is the projected enrollment growth in years to come.
Projected growth rates would take student enrollment in public K-12 schools to 1.360
million young people by 2008.

  The chart below shows where the dollars for facilities are needed over the five-year

       Facility Needs                                        % Of
                                      Estimated Cost                 Total

               New Schools                    $2,032,401,017         32.76%
               Additions                      $1,843,402,826         29.71%
               Renovations                    $1,770,476,185         28.54%
               Furnishings/Equipment          $472,587,765           7.62%
               Land                           $85,235,941            1.37%

               Total                          $6,204,103,734         100.00%

 For a full copy of the report, request the 2000/01 Public Schools Facility Needs Survey
                     from DPI’s Information Office at (800) 663-1250.

   Pitt County Proposes Unique Approach to High School
   For months the Pitt County School System has been gathering public input, looking at
high school models across the country and drafting a plan for what could be one of the
state’s more innovative approaches to structuring high schools. Fueling the proposed
change is the scheduled opening of a new high school in 2002 that will require the district
to make large-scale changes in existing high school attendance lines.

   The proposed “blueprint” calls for six comprehensive high schools, each of which will
offer a distinctive academic focus, such as health care careers or business technology.
Each school would offer a “freshman academy,” a mentoring and “personal advocacy
program” and access to courses offered via the Internet.

   The proposal would pair high schools that offered courses not offered by their pairing
partner. That would mean that students in the schools would have access to a full range
of advanced academic programs and electives. Under the plan some courses would be

    Pitt County Plans New High School Structure (cont’d)
available through the Internet; students would shuttle back and forth between their paired
schools for other courses.

   In addition to offering all high school students a full range of advanced course work,
the pairing program would make available a much broader range of occupational course
offerings, ranging from advanced automotive technology to graphics.

  The plan was unveiled at a standing room-only public briefing and will now be the
topic of public discussion at similar meetings throughout the district. The new plan will
not go into effect until the fall of 2002, and school officials are hopeful that a community
consensus can be built during the coming school year.

          A Z. Smith Reyonolds Young Scholar
  Receives Presidential Award for Educational Excellence
  William Hargrove, a Young Scholar from the Mariam Boyd Elementary School in
Warren County, has just received the prestigious President’s Award for Educational
Excellence. It recognizes students who have earned a grade point average of 90 or above
and are achieving at the 85th percentile or higher on standardized achievement tests.

   Describing his reaction to the award, Hargrove said that when his name was called to
come on stage, he looked around to see if there were another William whose name had
been called! Hargrove said, “Before, I had trouble in reading and by the end of the year,
I was successful. It proves to me that . . . anything is possible.”

   The Z. Smith Reynolds Young Scholars Program has been designed for students in
schools with large numbers of at-risk students. It attempts to identify students with
potential and give them extra support to bring fulfill that potential. Participating schools
like Mariam Boyd Elementary provide the hourly equivalent of 80 additional days of
school to participants and combine a focus on basic studies with enrichment programs,
technology projects and field experiences. The Young Scholars Program was made
possible through financial support from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The program
is administered by the Public School Forum. For more information contact Gail
Daughtry, the director of the program, at

National News

                   Georgia Governor to Head Up
                Educational Commission of the States
  When former Georgia Governor Zell Miller left office and moved on to the U.S.
Senate, many wondered if his successor would pick up the mantle of “education
governor” that Miller had rightfully earned. During Miller’s term in office, he
successfully promoted a lottery plan that is touted as one of the most thoughtful in the
country. From the plan came Georgia’s “Hope Scholarship” program, early education
and a massive push to outfit schools with technology.

   His successor, current governor Roy Barnes, has wasted little time in following in
Miller’s educational footsteps. Last spring the recommendations of a blue ribbon task
force appointed by Barnes successfully framed an omnibus school reform package that
has the potential to make Georgia a leader in the high standards movement. Included in
the new package are additional resources for at-risk schools, lower class sizes, the
abolishment of teacher tenure, and merit pay.

  Barnes’ advocacy for high standards was recognized this week as delegates to the
annual Education Commission of the States conference elected him to be their new
Chairman-Elect. He will become the Chairman of the national organization in 2002.

                  Budget Woes Felt Across Southeast
   According to a report from the UNC Program on Southern Politics, Media and Public
Life, this year’s Southern Legislative Conference’s annual meeting was unlike any in
recent years. Two states, North Carolina and Tennessee, had no delegates at the
conference, which normally attracts large numbers of lawmakers from all of the states in
the south.

   What kept them at home was the topic that dominated this year’s Southern Legislative
Conference – budgets and taxes. Tennessee, after what has been described as “one of the
longest legislative sessions in recent history, which saw the rise and fall of many tax
plans” ended in disarray with no agreement on a tax increase.

  The last days of the Tennessee session saw protests described by the Nashville
Tennessean as “a mob of protestors broke a window in the governor’s office, accosted
lawmakers in the hallways, banged on locked doors and shouted so loud that lawmakers
could barely conduct business.”

  Tennessee’s inability to reach a budget agreement resulted in an immediate
downgrading in their bond rating status, something widely feared in North Carolina if the
General Assembly ends in similar fashion.

                            Budget Woes (cont’d.)
   Tennessee and North Carolina aren’t alone. After two special sessions of legislators in
Alabama, schools and universities are absorbing cuts in excess of 6%. In Virginia, after
what a legislator described as “a three-day battle,” -- the Governor versus the House
versus the Senate – the legislature adjourned without adopting a new budget.
The Friday Report is published weekly by the Public School Forum of NC and is
distributed to Forum Board members, members of the General Assembly, the press, and
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