Monday numbers: A closer look at disparities in school funding

Monday numbers: A closer look at disparities in school funding

- in Education, Top Story

It’s no secret that certain school districts are better funded than others in North Carolina. But new figures released by the Public School Forum of North Carolina highlight troubling disparities in the educational investment made for students across our state’s 100 counties.

The new Local School Finance Study notes an ever-widening gap between wealthier counties and those with lower levels of wealth, deepening educational inequities across districts.

What’s more, the ten wealthiest counties in North Carolina have nearly five times the taxable property wealth per child available than the ten poorest counties.

So why does this matter?

Let’s let the researchers at the Public School Forum explain:

‘These funding disparities have tangible impacts in North Carolina classrooms. For instance, local salary supplements for educators are generally substantially larger in high-wealth and larger districts, which better positions them to attract and retain top talent. Many rural districts, which already face challenges in recruiting and retaining highly skilled teachers, are at an even greater disadvantage if they are not able to offer competitive pay. In low-wealth districts, schools are often unable to offer the diversity of course offerings found in wealthier counties, meaning that many students in these districts are unable to access advanced courses or electives that are important in developing college and career readiness.

And while higher wealth districts are able to tap deeper wallets as they cope with inadequate state-level investments, low-wealth districts must scramble to pull together scarce local resources to provide even the most basic classroom supplies such as paper, pencils and textbooks.”

This week’s Monday numbers column takes a closer look at local spending levels:

$3,305 – the average amount spent per student by the ten highest spending North Carolina counties compared to the ten lowest spending counties

$782 – the amount spent per student by the ten lowest spending North Carolina counties

$1,161 – the spending gap per student between the top ten spending counties and the bottom ten spending counties  in 1998

$2,523 – the spending gap per student between the top ten spending counties and the bottom ten spending counties in 2018

Source: Public School Forum’s Local School Finance Study

5 – North Carolina’s ten wealthiest counties have nearly five times the taxable property wealth per child available than the ten poorest counties.

$5,256 – Orange County’s annual local spending per-student (2017-18)

$4,272 – Dare County’s local spending per-student

$3,376 – Durham County’s local spending per-student

$2,509 – Wake County’s local spending per student

$764 – Greene County’s local spending per-student

$535 – Hoke County’s local spending per-student

$434 – Swain County’s local spending per-student

$382 – In 2017-18, Orange County alone spent $382 more per student than the seven lowest-spending districts combined

Most local funding for schools comes from property taxes.

1 – Dare County holds the top ranking in our state of real estate wealth available to help fund its schools

100 – Robeson County ranks dead last of North Carolina counties in terms of its real estate wealth available to fund is schools

7 – the number of days since the Public School Forum released the Local School Finance Study and its companion report (2020 Top Education Issues) that calls on the state to redesign its school finance system to dramatically improve adequacy, equity and flexibility

77 – the number of days since the WestEd/Leandro report was released to the public, which also underscores the need for revising the state funding model to provide adequate, efficient, and equitable resources.

23 – the number of years since the NC Supreme Court declared in the Leandro ruling that all students are entitled to receive a “sound basic education”