EDUCATION POLICY POINTS: North Carolina's Public School Funding System: Underfunded, Unclear, and Unfair

By Matthew Ellinwood
Nov. 2010
 
NC K‐12 funding ranks near bottom of all states
With a state budget shortfall of at least $3.5 billion for fiscal year 2011‐2012, North Carolina’s public school system faces further cuts to an already bare‐bones funding scheme. According to the most recent U.S. Census data, North Carolina ranks 45th in the nation in per‐pupil spending and 43rd in the nation in per‐pupil expenditure as a share of personal income. North Carolina ranks behind other southern states including South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Kentucky. Education Week ranked North Carolina 46th in terms of funding adequacy and equity, giving it a D+, the lowest grade any state received. The Education Law Center rated state public school funding based on funding level, funding distribution, effort (the amount of spending compared to state per‐capita Gross Domestic Product), and the number of school‐age children attending the state’s public schools. North Carolina was one of only four states to receive below‐ average ratings on all four indicators, including a D for funding distribution and an F for effort.
 

While money is not everything in the world of education, it is difficult to imagine how to make cuts to an already insufficiently funded public school system. Adequate funding is a prerequisite to most education reforms that can improve the achievement of all of North Carolina’s students and prepare them for success in life after school. 

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