But, Republicans say that's not realistic because education also eats up more than half of all the state's spending.
So, the question is: can you make big cuts in education without causing big problems?
Republicans say yes.
Perdue isn't sure.
But with Republicans writing the budget, there's a good chance we're going to find out.
Republican House speaker-elect Thom Tillis says there's no way to cut $3.5 billion - or about 20 percent of the budget - without significant cuts to education. But, he says cuts don't have to be costly when it comes to student performance.
"It's not all about cutting. It's about how can you do things that are stimulative," he explained.
Tillis says he wants make it easier for schools to what they need to do by doing away with some of what the state currently requires them to do.
"What if we came to you and said that we may fund you with less, but we may also mandate that you, mandate less. In other words, give you more flexibility to run your school system the way that you think you need to run it," he said.
So how would that work?
"To take a look at the hundreds of pages of statutes and thousands of pages of procedures and regulations coming out of DPI and to say, which one of these are creating structural costs, that if we eliminate, you can still focus on paying teachers and funding the classroom and have a less complex environment to run in," Tillis explained.
It's a thought that works well with Governor Perdue's recent commitment to making state government run more smoothly.
She told ABC11 she's open to the idea - albeit wary of possibly unintended consequences.
"I don't know what it is that the county and city systems are asked to do that costs so much money that they think they can eliminate 5 or 6 or 700 million dollars that they could do without that money if they had flexibility. If they can show us what they're talking about, and if the system can save us a billion dollars with flexibility, hey, give 'em flexibility. But remember, the constitution requires that that flexibility requires that every child gets a free and public education. You can't have it both ways," said Perdue.