Legislative Recap: Charter School Money, $2 Billion In Bonds, Recruiting Jobs

Sep 22, 2015

State Senate chamber of NC General Assembly
Credit Dave DeWitt / WUNC

North Carolina senators acted Monday on two plans that could have a wide impact on charter schools and the state's business recruitment efforts, and debated a plan to issue $2 billion dollars in bonds to renovate and put up new buildings. A recap: 

$2B Bond Package Focuses On Colleges And Universities, Leaves Out McCrory's Highway Plan 

State Senators unveiled a plan to borrow $2 billion in bonds for building construction and renovation.

The plan, which followed a request for $3 billion from Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this year, and a proposal from the House of Representatives, would provide: 

  • $922 million mostly for science and health buildings at 11 public universities 
  • $400 million for community colleges
  • $100 million for the  Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • $350 million in low interest loans and $100 million in grants for Department of Environmental Quality programs 
  • $83 million in military investments, including readiness centers, armory renovations and helipads for the National Guard 
  • $45 million for the African Pavilion at the North Carolina Zoo 

Gov. Pat McCrory asked lawmakers for a bond package earlier this year, but top Senate Republicans have ignored a central part of his request. Their plan would not borrow money for renovating roads and highways.

Sen. Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston) said before the Senate Finance committee the two-year budget McCrory signed on Friday includes $700 million for highways. 

Under the Senate's proposal, the bond package would be before voters in the November 2016 election. 

Up To $35M Could Be Used To Lure Big Companies To NC 

The Senate gave preliminary approval on Monday to a plan that would set aside more money to recruit businesses to North Carolina.

The bill would increase the grants North Carolina could give companies for creating new jobs and investing in the state. The cap would increase from $15 to $20 million a year. It could go as high as $35 million if the state attracts a large project, like an auto plant, that invests at least $500 million and adds at least 1,750 jobs.

Companies would also get more generous incentives if they move to a poor county. Supporters say it’ll help make North Carolina more competitive.  

Governor Pat McCrory has been looking to replenish the state’s main job incentives and recruiting fund – also known as the Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) – all legislative session.

The Senate is expected to give final approval Tuesday.

Additional School District Funds Would Be Diverted to Charter Schools 

Some state senators want to require school districts to share more funds with charter schools.

A Senate committee on Monday changed a House bill about playgrounds into a bill relating to charter school funding.

Katherine Joyce from the Association of School Administrators said superintendents oppose the plan because it would require school districts to share money from federal grants, local sales taxes and private donations.

"Why should those be shared if a donor has specifically said, 'I want these funds for students in my district'?" 

Sen. Chad Barefoot (R-Wake) replied with another rhetorical question: 

"These moneys, if the school system are getting them, should follow the child," Barefoot said. "Why should a child who's in the child public school system, whether traditional or charter, go less equipped to one school over the other because the (school district) wants to keep those funds?"