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State Team Headed To Hoke County To Help Stretch Educational Resources

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RAEFORD, N.C. — A special team of educators is headed to Hoke County Thursday. They have been ordered there by a judge who is determined to give poor school children the same opportunities as wealthy kids.

However, what the team finds could change funding for all school systems.

Hoke County says it has a school system short on money.

"Of course they're getting a good education. They could benefit from better resources, of course, we all could," said Tuwanda McNeill, a fourth grade teacher.

"But the problem is that we're only able to generate so many dollars in Hoke County," said Allen Strickland, Hoke County school supetrintendent.

Hoke County is small and rural. Its school system spends $621 in local money per student. The state average of $1,474 is more than double.

"Paying salaries is a real issue," Strickland said."It's a competitive world out there. Teachers just don't, you know, take the first job that comes along like they used to. They shop around. And they know that next door they're paying an 8 percent supplement. In Charlotte/Mecklenburg, they start out with a 13 percent supplement. We're offering a 4 percent supplement."

This spring, a Superior Court judge in Raleigh blasted the state for failing to help poor school systems like Hoke County. The judge specifically ordered the state to go into Hoke County and make improvements without spending more money.

"We're doing our best to comply with that," said Brad Sneeden, leader of the state team being sent to Hoke County. "There seems to be this belief that resources aren't being utilized as well as they need to be."

"We think that we are using our resources appropriately," Strickland said.

School leaders in Hoke County said the truth is that there just are not enough resources.

Hoke County is one of five poor school districts that sued the state for more money. The lawsuit has lasted eight years. While the lawsuit is based on state spending at schools, the numbers show Hoke County is getting a lot of money from the state.

According to the Department of Public Instruction, Hoke County schools get more money from the state per student than larger school systems:

  • Hoke County: $4,703
  • Durham County: $4,470
  • Wake County: $4,311
  • Cumberland County: $4,260
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