On average, Orange County spends almost $5,000 on each student in its school systems. This is over $3,000 more than the average county spends on each student, and over $4,000 more than the poorest, Swain County spends on each student.
That’s what the Public School Forum of North Carolina found out in its latest study.
“That plays out across North Carolina where you’ve got counties like Orange, like Durham, like Wake County, Guilford County, Mecklenburg County,” said Keith Poston, President and Executive Director of the Public School Forum of NC. “The urban cities have a lot more resources available for their schools. Our poor, mostly rural counties have very little and it really changes what the school system is able to provide.”
Poston said the gap in how much money schools spend on students poses a problem.
“That shows up in everything from basic school supplies to technology in the classroom, the actual facilities that the schools are housed in,” he said. “It’s just a very different experience if you happened to be born in one of our poorer counties.”
Keith Poston spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
Most of the funding for North Carolina public schools comes from the state level. Poston said this part of the funding is equitable, but there are some counties with additional resources that can afford supplementary money at the local level for teachers and schools.
He said this then leads teachers and more resources to those counties, and leaves the poorer counties out to dry.
“We believe that there ought to be a better way for us to make sure that every child has the possibility of a good education and I’m not sure that this kind of disparity really allows that to happen,” Poston said.
Wake County has the highest supplemental pay for teachers in the state.
But Poston said the forum is working on initiatives that can help ease the gap. One is Low Wealth County Support Funding and the other is Small County Support Funding.
He said the General Assembly is also considering a weighted student-funding formula that will look at distributing resources based on a pupil-by-pupil basis.
“You can have an inequitable weighted student-funded formula just like you have an inequitable allotment system like we have now,” Poston said. “The amount of money that’s being provided to our schools overall is inadequate to run a first-rate school system over the long haul. We are near the bottom nationally in terms of how much we spend per pupil.”
Poston said even though there is no perfect way to bridge the gap overnight, it’s important to understand what the state has to work on.
“The things that we need to do to have a good school system aren’t that complicated,” he said. “You have to have great teachers. You have to have a great school leader and you have to have adequate resources within the school to teach the children and right now we’re lagging in all three categories.”