On July 20th, a New Mexico court ruled that the state’s school funding system was inadequate and unconstitutional, violating the constitutional equal protection and due process rights of economically disadvantaged students, English Language Learners and Native American students. The ruling is an unmitigated victory for the residents of New Mexico, particularly those from underserved communities.
The evidence of New Mexico’s inadequate funding will sound familiar to North Carolinians:
- New Mexico students lack adequate instructional materials, curricula and teachers.
- The lack of resources is having a disproportionately negative impact on children from low-income families, Native American students, and English language learners.
- To allow at-risk students to overcome the barriers they face, the state must provide programs such as pre-K, summer school, after-school programs, targeted class-size reductions, and research-based reading programs.
- The state’s teacher evaluation system penalizes teachers for working in high-need schools, creating shortages of effective teachers in high-need schools.
These same arguments were echoed by the more than 20,000 educators who marched on Raleigh on May 16th of this year. Their message highlighted how nearly ten years of austerity budgets in North Carolina are making it increasingly difficult for teachers to meet the needs of all of their students. Specifically, there are direct local parallels to each of the findings from the New Mexico case:
- North Carolina’s lack of adequate instructional materials, curricula, and teachers is evidenced by the 55 percent reduction in classroom supplies, 39 percent reduction in textbooks, and 2.5 percent reduction in classroom teachers from pre-Recession levels.
- North Carolina’s disproportionate impact on at-risk students is evidenced by widening achievement gaps on the National Assessment of Student Progress.
- North Carolina funds fewer Pre-K slots than from before the Recession. Districts have little funding for summer school or after-school programs. The General Assembly’s one-size-fits-all class-size reduction plan is forcing districts to abandon targeted class-size reduction plans that focused on at-risk students. North Carolina’s early-grades literacy efforts have ignored research-informed best practices, and has been associated with declining reading scores.
- North Carolina has a school-based evaluation system that does a better job measuring students’ family incomes rather than how much learning is taking place, needlessly stigmatizing schools with a high proportion of low-income students.
In fact, school funding in New Mexico looks better than in North Carolina. Adjusted to reflect differences in regional wages, poverty, economies of scale, and population density, New Mexico outspends North Carolina by 29 percent: