National experts continue to give NC failing grades on school funding

For the past decade, North Carolina’s legislative leaders have prioritized tax cuts over providing students with public schools that meet constitutional standards. The obvious results of these misguided policy priorities have been documented by researchers at the Education Law Center, who show that North Carolina’s school finance system is among the worst in the nation.

Education Law Center’s Making the Grade 2021 report rates all 50 states and the District of Columbia along three important measures of school funding:

  1. Funding level: Per-pupil revenue from state and local sources, adjusted for regional differences in labor costs
  2. Funding distribution: The extent to which additional funds are distributed to school districts with high levels of student poverty
  3. Funding effort: Funding allocated to support PK-12 public education as a percentage of the state’s GDP

North Carolina earns a grade of F for funding level, with just four states having a lower funding level. North Carolina’s cost-adjusted per-student funding level ($10,595) falls a whopping 43 percent short of the national average ($15,114).

The state receives middling marks for funding distribution, with highest-poverty districts receiving just slightly more funding (about 7 percent) than the lowest-poverty districts.

Finally, North Carolina receives an F in terms of funding effort. Only Arizona and the District of Columbia dedicate a smaller share of their economy to public schools than we do in North Carolina. Our low funding effort shows that our low funding level is due to misguided policy choices, not fiscal constraints.

While the report paints a grim picture of school finance and our state lawmakers’ twisted priorities, there is good news for North Carolina’s schools. As a result of North Carolina’s long running Leandro Court case, the state has a detailed plan to 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 finance system that’s both adequate and equitable.

The Plan – based on two years of study from some of the country’s top, nonpartisan education experts – will substantially increase funding in all districts, but especially in those districts with the greatest barriers to student success. The Every Child NC coalition has created a tool so you can see how the Plan will benefit your school district.

As the Education Law Center report shows, the challenges facing our schools are stark. However, the report also shows that North Carolina can readily afford to create a system that’s adequate and equitable. All we need now is the political will.

Load More Related Articles
Load More By Kris Nordstrom
Load More In Commentary

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

Despite the explosive spread of the omicron variant, many statehouses are attempting to conduct business as… [...]

Two Black incumbent senators in eastern North Carolina have no chance of winning reelection in their… [...]

In the decades since it became a national holiday, Martin Luther King Day has served as… [...]

Extent of toxic solvents still unknown; new round of testing to begin Environmental testing could restart… [...]

The subject of inflation has been on many tongues in the public policy world of late… [...]

The post MLK’s Dream. McConnell’s nightmare. appeared first on NC Policy Watch. [...]

This week saw the beginning of another season in North Carolina: redistricting lawsuit season. Experienced followers… [...]

“My boss told me if I didn’t come in, I’d get fired.” So spoke a rather… [...]

Now Hiring

The North Carolina Justice Center is seeking a Courts, Law & Democracy Reporter for NC Policy Watch, to investigate, analyze and report on the federal and state judicial systems. This position will cover criminal and civil justice issues in the General Assembly and executive branch agencies, issues related to elections and voting, and other topics.