Local News

Are North Carolina Schools on a Shoestring Budget?

Posted April 1, 2008

— When it comes to money spent on education, North Carolina is near the bottom of the barrel.

Nationwide, public school districts spend an average of $9,138 per student. That is federal, state and local funds combined.

North Carolina falls $1,750 short of the average, and that leaves it 44th in the nation, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report.

“This report shows money does make a difference in the quality of education,” Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said.

New York spends the most, $14,884 per student. Atkinson used Massachusetts – which is near the top of the Census money report – as an example of a state where test scores are also higher. She said she wants to see more state money spent on teacher salaries and technology.

North Carolina relies heavily on state funding, which may be a reason it ranks below other states that use more local funds.

Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, hesitates to take the Census ranking at face value. He said that if the figures were adjusted for the cost of living in the various states, North Carolina would rank higher.

There is also a concern with local governments having the power to raise property taxes in order to allot more monies to education.

“I don't have a lot of people asking me to please raise their property tax,” said Joe Bryan, Wake County Board of Commissioners chair.

Bryan said budgets are a yearly struggle.

“It gets down to trying to balance what is a reasonable amount for investment and accountability. And you have to get the public to buy in as well,” he said.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina has studied funding for more than 20 years.

“When it comes to school funding, everyone points fingers. There's always blame,” said John Dornan, of the Forum, a nonprofit think-tank that tracks county school spending every year.

North Carolina's statewide test scores rank around the national average. But the Wake County Public School System is a nationally recognized leader, with high scores and other academic achievements. In February 2004, Forbes magazine ranked the school system third in the nation for “Best Education in the Biggest Cities.”

To bring the Tar Heel state up to the national average for monies spent, an additional $2 billion would need to go toward public education this year.

Wake County is slightly closer to the mark – the school system would have to come up with $222 million more.


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  • mmania Apr 2, 2008

    well it's no wonder they're short, all their employees are stealing from them.

  • TheAdmiral Apr 2, 2008

    What ticks me off is that they get 83% of my property taxes that I paid, get a $970 Million Dollar Bond issue, then want to come forward with another Bond issue - claim that they will have to raise taxes for school construction and get $530 million from the lottery and say it is not enough.

    When is enough - enough? When they can tinkle away more money on overhead administration than on the teachers to teach the kids?

    Sure you have kids who are difficult - that is why you have special education - or is that for the smart ones. I can never remember because of Politically Correct Nonsense.

    If you have teachers who refuse to do their job and a teachers union advocating not doing their job because of pay, then they all need to be placed on unemployment. Get teachers in there who know how to teach and not how to whine - it is making ALL of the teachers look bad.

    If you have a D and F student. Tell the parents by calling them and that they need tutoring. Pass it back to the parents!

  • hawk_fan Apr 2, 2008

    Please don't tell me that I am failing my students. Please do send me students who are "unplugged." Unplug the TV, computer, video games, iPod and turn off the cell phone until your child has completed his/her school work and has read a book or newspaper. This year I have students who I tutor during lunch and after school. They do not complete assignments and I have given them dozens of opportunity for help. These same students who are failing classes (including PE) are allowed to play video games, surf the Web, and IM with friends all through the evening.

  • Yelena Apr 2, 2008

    Please explain the success of home schooled people like Sandra Day O'Conner, Presidents Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

    Not everybody is qualified to home school their children, but many are.

  • SEOpro Apr 2, 2008


    Where's that lottery money???????????

    And too, about this comment:

    "similar to the concept that not all public schools advance eduction...how much does a superintendant/principal really deserve? that's where the momney is being wasted..."

    Again - where's that lottery money? Is it in the school super's pocket or in the Lottery manager's pocket? Hmm, let's see.......

  • ty will belabor a point Apr 2, 2008

    "Most adults cannot even do fractions, decimals and percents-- much less algebra, chemistry, physics English composition."

    But I bet those that had robust private educations in a scholastic environment can. I agree, most public school educated parents can't do that.

    There are, I'm sure, exceptions. I personally know a handful of people who feel homeschool is their only choice. Each of them are well read, literate, well educated couples who probably give their children an exposure the public school system could only dream of giving. What they miss is social interaction but even there are programs for that. I am a proponent choice in education (secular and religious and public). Even though I think vouchers would actually cause the collapse of public schools as I think they are incapable of changing/competing.

  • ty will belabor a point Apr 2, 2008


    Where is this private school that you are alluding to? I've never seen one that costs less than 5K per year."

    I agree it's around $5k yr for any school worth salt. I was approximating.

    As for the guy saying "this will become an issue of the haves vs have nots": drop the class warfare trope, it's tiring and overused. I'm clearly, solidly middle class and as education for my children is more important than eating out all the time or having the best car or a house above and beyond my income, I can make the sacrifices necessary to send my kids to private school on a very modest income. It's all about priorities. It does gall me when I see what schools spend on children and I compare that to a private academy and what they do for far less and unsubsidized by my tax dollars.

    And there are private, secular schools (and more would be created to fill the void) if you don't want your child to have any exposure to biblical teachings (e.g. earth's age).

  • likemenow Apr 2, 2008

    RE:"I am amazed at the large number of parents who "think" they have the ability to teach their child everything from grade 1-9 and then all of the high school subjects."...Are you implying that the school system also "thinks" that they are doing their job..because they aren't

  • likemenow Apr 2, 2008

    RE:"Where is this private school that you are alluding to? I've never seen one that costs less than 5K per year."..the price for my 5 y.o. son to go to daycare full-time is 550/month..i think i'd be more than happy to pay that for a private school for the next 18 years..especilly as important it is to his future.....but go ahead, keep your kids in public schools..not being mean but the schools these days are simply failing our children

  • likemenow Apr 2, 2008

    "The earth IS 6000 years old. Any other belief is scientific theory and can't be acurately proven.".....that's why your outlook is called "faith", because you can beleive what you want to...my ex-wife doesn't believe in dinosaurs for that very reason...yup, you heard me right..and not all private schools advance faith..similar to the concept that not all public schools advance eduction...how much does a superintendant/principal really deserve? that's where the momney is being wasted...and on top of that, the (most) architects that design thse schools are constantly creating showplaces that cost too much money for their prescribed use