For many years, public education, including K-12 schools, the UNC system, and the community college system, was the largest expenditure in state government. In 2003, the Easley administration increased spending on Health and Human Services (HHS) and it eclipsed public education as the largest expenditure in the total state budget. Since 2005, the total HHS budget has been consistently higher than funds spent on public education. Many of the state’s welfare programs are primarily funded through HHS and, thus, receive a significant portion of funding from the federal government.
If you want to read more about this, check out my Spotlight on Trends in NC State Spending.