School district size study committee begins work

Posted February 21, 2018 11:49 a.m. EST
Updated February 21, 2018 11:57 a.m. EST

School lockers

— A joint legislative committee studying the best size for school districts in North Carolina took no action at its first meeting Wednesday, and House Chairman Bill Brawley said he expects no action for some time to come.

Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, reiterated several times in his opening remarks that the committee does not intend to recommend splitting up any school districts and that he does not expect legislation from other lawmakers to require districts to split, noting that a proposal to divide Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools two decades ago "went nowhere."

He said the purpose of the panel is strictly to "go where the data takes us" on school district size and supply that research in a report to the legislature to "inform the debate."

At its hour-long first meeting, the Joint Legislative Study Committee on the Division of Local School Administrative Units heard presentations from legislative staff comparing North Carolina's average students per district, which staff said is not out of line in the Southeast, and student performance metrics in school districts of varying sizes. Larger districts fared better in most of those comparisons, though staffers were quick to point out that many factors could affect those metrics and that the comparisons are "very high-level."

Staff reports also outlined state law governing school districts and funding for schools.

North Carolina has about 1.5 million students in 115 school districts, one for each county plus 15 smaller districts. Districts in Wake and Mecklenburg counties are among the country's 25 largest.

The panel's next meeting is March 14.