The state of North Carolina’s finance model for funding its school districts is a complex hybrid system of allotments for teachers, programs and school characteristics. The formula allots a certain number of teacher positions based on the number of students enrolled, and those allotments pay per teacher regardless of salary.
School districts in the state can also receive local revenue from property taxes, sales and use taxes, and utility taxes. Special funds come from the state lottery, fines and forfeitures, estimated sales tax refund, and an Indian gaming fund that supports funding for school textbooks.
Schools that are able to retain experienced teachers receive more funding. On average, wealthier districts in North Carolina tend to have more experienced teachers, according to the Financing Education in North Carolina budget and Tax Guide.
In fact, the most recent county level data from 2015-16 shows that that the ten highest spending counties in the state spent on average $3,103 per student compared to $739 by the ten lowest spending counties for a gap of $2,364 per student – a number that has grown every year since 2011 and 18 of the past 20 years.
On a dollars-per-student basis, some think position allotments direct more funds to wealthy districts than poorer districts.
Classrooms are directly impacted as local salary supplements for educators are generally larger in high-wealth districts, which better positions them to attract and retain top talent. In low-wealth districts that have fewer resources, class offerings often lack the diversity of those in wealthier schools. Basic classroom supplies like paper, pencils and textbooks are harder to fund for low-wealth districts.
So, the most economically disadvantaged counties continue to fall further behind wealthier counties in terms of resources available to their local schools.
Some think North Carolina’s school funding model is outdated (it was initiated 85 years ago), and suggest a student-based funding model like the one California adopted in 2013.