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State lawmakers poised to study inequities in North Carolina school funding

North Carolina lawmakers appear poised to convene a task force to prepare reforms to the state’s formula for funding schools, after a nonpartisan report skewered the complicated system for multiple inequities and inefficiencies last year.

As Policy Watch reported in November, the school funding formula—broken into 37 separate categories allocating resources for textbooks, teachers, administration and more—was blasted by the state’s Program Evaluation Division (PED).

PED noted yawning disparities between rich and poor counties, “illogical and uneven” funding for students with limited English proficiency, shortfalls in cash for children with disabilities and other significant problems with a fragmented structure for bankrolling North Carolina public education.

As expected, one of the first bills filed by lawmakers this week would create a task force composed of equal parts House and Senate appointees to study methods of reforming school funding. The task force would begin work no later than October, with a final report to the legislature due in July 2018.

It’s worth noting that the bill, as it currently stands, does not offer any appointments for Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat currently mired in court with the GOP-dominated legislature over appointment powers.

Some have suggested North Carolina could move to a weighted student-based funding formula, which, according to some, would offer a more transparent, simpler means of financing public schools.

Put simply, such a funding formula offers a designated amount of cash per student, layered with additional “weights” for students in need of additional services. Read about student-based funding here.

Others have argued, however, that the state should first study the adequacy of its total K-12 funding, pointing out North Carolina’s national ranking in per-pupil spending is among the worst in the nation.

The legislation has been assigned to the House Education Committee. Watch Policy Watch for further updates on this pivotal legislation.

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