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School Funding Inadequate Says N.C. Education Group

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RALEIGH — An education group wants North Carolina state government to overhaul the way it funds public schools to make sure all schools are getting the money they need.

The North Carolina Public School Forum released its year-long study Monday, reporting that the state could face a crisis in two years because new education standards may keep up to two-thirds of students tested from moving up a grade.

Since its inception in 1986, the Public School Forum has played a large role in changing a number of state education policies. This time it is taking on a policy that controls how all the state money is distributed for students.

One of the main suggestions the report offers is more spending. Right now, the state funds a $5 billion annual education budget. The Public School Forum says the state needs to increase its education spending by another $1 billion.

With the entire state budget being only $12 billion, John Dornan, of the Public School Forum, admits that could be a tough sale, but he thinks some of the money can be allocated.

"We're saying the obvious, but it is not the obvious because that'll be the reaction from many people," said Dornan. "We're investing $5 billion already when it comes to how much we spend. We are a state that faces far greater needs."

Dornan said that 40 percent of North Carolina public school students get some kind of assistance. He also said there have been a number of studies linking students in poverty to lower test scores. That is why he believes funding is a big concern.

"In just two years, we have the potential of over 100,000 students facing non-promotion, or non-graduation," Dornan said. "We think that lends a little urgency to this."

Dornan also talked about a different weighting system when it comes to funding for at-risk students. It includes getting rid of a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to students with special needs.

"It is wonderful progress that we've clawed our way to the national averages," Dornan said. "The question is do we want to go above the national averages, or do we stop when we become mediocre?"

Two members of the Senate Appropriations Committee say they would like to spend another billion on education, but that there is no funding to do it barring a tax hike, which would be a hard sell. Governor Hunt says we need to do everything we can to help children achieve higher standards with the resources we have.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
Keith Baker, Photographer
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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