By all accounts, the biggest issue facing North Carolina’s public schools is the lack of adequate funding. Adjusted for inflation, 18 of the 24 biggest school funding allotments remain below their pre-Recession levels, or have been eliminated altogether. As a result, North Carolina’s per-student state funding remains 3 percent below pre-Recession levels after adjusting for inflation. According to the most recent data from the National Education Association, North Carolina’s per-pupil spending ranks 39th in the country, trailing the national average by over $2,400, or 25 percent.
More sophisticated measures of school spending paint an even bleaker picture. For example, EdWeek’s Quality Counts report gives North Carolina an F (47th in the nation) for level of school spending. Research from the Education Law Project and Rutgers University reaches a similar conclusion, ranking North Carolina 48th in terms of total school spending.
Compared to other states, North Carolina devotes a shockingly small share of its wealth towards funding our public schools. North Carolina’s spending on public schools accounts for less than 2.8 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. By contrast, Vermont makes twice the effort, devoting 5.6 percent of its state wealth to its public school system. Overall, North Carolina ranks 46th in terms of school funding effort; a ranking that has fallen even as the national recovery officially began. Rather than invest when it has been possible to do so, the current leadership of the General Assembly has continued to reduce their commitment to our classrooms and children.
If North Carolina’s lawmakers were interested in addressing the inadequacy of North Carolina’s school funding, they should want to have every revenue-generating tool at their disposal. Particularly, lawmakers should prioritize revenue options that minimize the tax burden on lower-income North Carolinians who have mostly been left behind in North Carolina’s economic recovery. Read more