State School Funding Changes Could Be on the Horizon

Big changes could be coming to North Carolina’s educational funding system.

A recent study presented to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation and Oversight Committee revealed inequities in the current funding formulas and made suggestions for entirely new ways to allocate money to the local school districts.

This has the potential to be the biggest change in the way the state pays for education since the School Machinery Act was signed into law in 1933 creating a state-funded school system.

Early reactions to this plan are mixed. Some say well-funded districts like Wake County will lose money, while others argue that counties with less local funding will suffer. It’s too early to say who is right.

North Carolina is one of just seven states in the country that uses a “resource allocation” method of determining funding, which uses several different formulas for determining how much money school districts receive in state tax dollars. This method, the report stated, favors wealthy districts over poor districts. Additional details are available from EdNC.

After hearing the report’s findings and the recommendations from General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division Principal Program Evaluator Sean Hamel, legislators voted to direct staff to draft a bill to be considered in the 2017 session that would create a task force on school finance reform.

The task force would present its findings in June 2018, which would mean any changes to school funding legislation wouldn’t happen before 2019. No major changes are expected until after the task force completes its work.

Joint Committee Co-Chair Rep. D. Craig Horn advocated for moving ahead with establishing the task force.

“This is a huge lift. This is people’s lives we are dealing with here. This is not some arm-length concept,” Horn said.

Other committee members urged caution and encouraged opening the task force up to non-legislators.

“I understand the value of having and hope we find a way to include our superintendents and listen to them, but involve them in such a way that they don’t have to take the hit,” Horn replied. “I think we need a long-term strategic view. We’ve got to have a fundamental change in how we support education in this state.”

The full report is available here, and the presentation slides are available here .

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