North Carolina receives failing grade on school funding

North Carolina received an “F” on funding level and funding effort, according to the Education Law Center.
The Education Law Center's annual report shows North Carolina received a failing grade in...
The Education Law Center's annual report shows North Carolina received a failing grade in school funding.(WITN)
Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 8:13 PM EDT

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - In an annual report by the Education Law Center, data based on the 2018-2019 school year shows school funding in North Carolina is among the lowest in the U.S., with grades of “F,” “C,” and “F” given out for funding level, funding distribution and funding effort.

“North Carolina schools have been underfunded for more than a decade,” Tamika Walker Kelly, North Carolina Association of Educators president said.

“We feel that underfunding when we know our educators have to crowdfund for resources in the classroom when we know that students go into classrooms without a well-certified teacher, and we know that when we go into school buildings that are leaky, or moldy, so again, it comes to no surprise.”

Tamika Walker Kelly, North Carolina Association of Educators president

The report ranked North Carolina as the 5th lowest in spending per student. The national average funding level is $15,114 and North Carolina spends $11,193 on schools in high-poverty districts.

However, North Carolina’s funding effort is “extremely low,” and has been over the past decade, according to Education Law Center Research Director Danielle Farrie.

“What we see in North Carolina is that not only is their effort extremely low, but they have over the past 10 years just experienced an immense level of disinvestment. Pre-recession the effort was much higher and then there was a period at which the effort really just kind of tanked.”

Danielle Farrie, Education Law Center research director

Farrie added that states like California were relevant to North Carolina in that the state started off poorly.

California was one of the lowest funded states that did not have equitable distribution, according to data from 2013. But the state of California has moved up and improved its ranking considerably.

“Research has shown that the outcomes in California are improving even in those first early years,” Farrie said. “So I think that’s kind of a good success story because it shows that you can be at the bottom and work your way up with the right sort of commitment from leaders.”

The national advocacy group said the hallmark of a fair school funding system is that it delivers more funding to educate students in high-poverty districts.

But as state lawmakers continue to discuss a budget to make public education fairer, Walker Kelly said she knows it can be done.

“We know that the $6 billion revenue surplus that the state is sitting on can also remedy many of the problems today, in addition to the money that is in the rainy day fund at the General Assembly,” Walker Kelly said. “So we have the resources and the financial resources to do it. We need our lawmakers to exercise the political will to make sure that our students and educators get the public education they deserve.”

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