For the past decade, North Carolina’s legislative leaders have favored tax cuts over providing students with public schools that meet constitutional standards. The obvious results of these flawed policy priorities have been documented by researchers at the Education Law Center, which show that North Carolina’s school funding system is among the worst in the country.
Education Law Center Classroom 2021 report assesses the 50 states and the District of Columbia on three important measures of school funding:
- Funding level: income per student from state and local sources, adjusted for regional differences in labor costs
- Distribution of funds: Extent to which additional funds are distributed to school districts with high levels of student poverty
- Funding effort: funding allocated to support public education PK-12 as a percentage of state GDP
North Carolina scores F for funding level, with only four states having a lower funding level. North Carolina’s cost-adjusted per student funding level ($ 10,595) is 43% lower than the national average ($ 15,114).
As the report paints a grim picture of school funding and the twisted priorities of our state lawmakers, there is good news for North Carolina schools. Due to North Carolina’s long run Leandro Court case, the state has a detailed plan create a school system that finally meets the bare minimum of what our constitution promises by 2028. A central pillar of the Leandro plan is a funding system that is both adequate and equitable.
The plan – based on two years of study by some of the country’s top non-partisan education experts – will dramatically increase funding in all districts, but especially in districts with the greatest barriers to student success. The Every Child NC coalition has created a tool for you to see how the plan will benefit your school district.
As the Center for Education Law report shows, the challenges facing our schools are enormous. However, the report also shows that North Carolina can easily afford to create a proper and fair system. All we need now is political will.