Report: State’s reduced support for education jeopardizes gains in student performance

Report: State’s reduced support for education jeopardizes gains in student performance

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North Carolina’s state support for education and other public investments is below its 40-year average, jeopardizing gains in student performance and the state’s economic future, according to a new report from the North Carolina Justice Center. A renewed commitment to investing in education will help improve student outcomes, reduce the achievement gap, and bolster the foundation for a strong economy.

Despite a modest recovery in state revenue since the end of the recession, North Carolina has failed to regain the ground lost during the economic downturn. For the current school year, total spending for K-12 education is $563 million less than it was six years ago when adjusted for inflation, the report highlights. This equates to $653 fewer dollars per student compared to six years ago and means fewer classroom teachers and assistants, no salary increase for teachers, and slashed funding for textbooks and supplies.

This abandonment of investment is a significant turnaround in a state that has long recognized the importance of education as a pathway to increased opportunity for individuals and a more competitive state economy.

At a time when public schools are challenged with educating a growing student body – the majority of which comes from low-income families – North Carolina is currently cutting investments that have promoted student achievement, the report said. The current state budget fails to provide adequate funding to maintain slots for the state’s Pre-K program, which serves at-risk four-year-olds. North Carolina policymakers removed class size restrictions even as the number of students statewide has increased and small class sizes have proven to positively impact student achievement, particularly for at-risk students.

Investing in education is a proven strategy in building the foundation for a strong economy and promoting widespread prosperity in North Carolina. Focusing spending on areas proven to have the greatest impact, such as early childhood education and teacher development, helps boost student outcomes and reduce the achievement gap, according to evidence highlighted in the report.

“The state’s new direction raises concerns about what the failure to invest in public education means for future student performance,” said Matt Ellinwood, a policy analyst with the NC Justice Center’s Education & Law Project and co-author of the report. “The claim by many who have supported the state’s reduced commitment to public education, that the level of spending has little or no impact on improving student achievement, is simply not true. The reality is that while spending alone does not guarantee student success, promoting widespread increased performance is not possible without investing in what we know works.”

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