For years, North Carolina Democrats have said the state’s public schools are underfunded. Now, some put their demands in a national context, saying the Tar Heel State does less for its students than any other state.
North Carolina ranks last in the nation in K-12 funding — and that’s quite a result [North Carolina Republican Party’s] Misplaced Priorities” Democrats in the North Carolina House of Representatives he said on Twitter Last month.
This tweet came to prominence because of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper Signed the latest state budgetsaying it has made “significant investments in education”.
The House Democrats’ tweet didn’t mention the source of her claim, so we reached out to the state Democratic caucus and the state Democratic Party. A party spokeswoman quoted an article published by the Daily Tar Heel.North Carolina ranks last in national school funding efforts, the report said. “
The report was prepared by an authoritative educational research group. However, the tweet misses key details. The national ranking is about North Carolina’s funding capacity — not spending levels alone. The ranking is also based on budget numbers from three years ago, so it doesn’t provide insight into North Carolina’s current funding capacity or funding level.
Funding level versus funding effort
the Education Law Centera New Jersey research firm advocating for more school funding, published last year 2022 MAKE THE CLASS REPORT on state spending on public school systems in the 2019-20 school year with the goal of assessing how “fair” each state is in distributing funds across schools.
Looking at each state and Washington, D.C., the center ranks each state in three categories: funding level, funding distribution, and funding efforts. While North Carolina ranks last in funding efforts, the state is not last in funding level or funding distribution. Here’s how the group defined these terms:
- Funding level, also known as per-pupil expenditure. This is a common way to measure education financing. The Education Law Center, in this case, ranks states by dividing state and local revenue by student enrollment. It excludes most federal funding, as well as county-level payments to charter schools, private schools, and other school systems that are reported as expenses. The center then adjusts the resulting numbers for regional differences using Comparative wage index issued by the National Center for Education Statistics for teachers. In this category, North Carolina ranked 48th, ahead of Idaho, Utah, and Arizona.
- Funding distribution. This measure is designed to assess how well the state’s additional funds are distributed to school districts with high levels of student poverty. In this category, North Carolina State came in 19th.
- funding effort. This category looks at public funding for grades Pre-K-12 as a percentage of the state’s GDP. By this metric, North Carolina came last, spending 2.32% of its GDP on education.
State financing of education is not correlated with growth in GDP. However, the Education Law Center said it believes the comparison is fair because it shows the state’s ability to raise funds, according to Danielle Fary, director of research at the center.
However, North Carolina’s Department of Public Education says, the North Carolina education system should not be judged by one group’s measurement of funding efforts. DPI spokeswoman Blair Rhodes said in an email that the department, which oversees public schools in the state, is not aware of any research that identifies the “ideal” ratio of GDP expenditures for education.
US Department of Education Tracks student results in math, reading, writing, and science in grades 4, 8, and 12. The Education Law Center awarded high marks for academic funding in Massachusetts.
Farry said the scores for the Education Law Center’s funding efforts are not indicative of the quality of the state’s education system. She said it was designed to show the state’s ability to raise more revenue for schools.
The relevant difference between North Carolina and Massachusetts is this: Both may get an “F” for effort, Farry said in an email, but Massachusetts has per-pupil funding levels well above the national average, while North Carolina has lower levels. Much higher than the national average. “Massachusetts is a very rich country and is able to generate high levels of funding with very little effort,” she said.
The data is also outdated. Fari said the Education Law Center has not yet analyzed state education budgets for the school years since 2019-2020.
Farry said it is impossible to predict how these budgets will affect North Carolina’s ranking. She said the group does not expect to release its 2020-2021 education financing report until later this year.
“It’s all relative,” Fari said in her email. “North Carolina has had to improve compared to other states. As they measure effort, their ranking also depends on how the state’s GDP changes. So we’ll just have to wait for the data to see where it falls.”
Other rankings put North Carolina low but not least
Meanwhile, other groups have crunched state budget numbers from recent years.
For the academic year 2020-21 Ranked by the National Education Association North Carolina 41 for public school expenses per student. reports from Urban InstituteAnd EducationData.org Cite data showing that recent funding levels per pupil in North Carolina for K-12 were lower than many states — but not the lowest.
The researchers who compiled the report last year,Adequate and fair financing systems for public schoolsIt also looked at each state’s “financial effort” for K-12 education in the 2019-20 school year. They ranked North Carolina 46th.
Bruce Baker, one of the report’s authors, heads the Department of Teaching and Learning at the University of Miami. He said North Carolina doesn’t usually rank last in funding for education.
“By most measures — and in my general opinion based on the pointers I’ve developed over the years, Arizona holds this place,” Baker said in an email. “North Carolina has tried really hard to get there and is part of a race to rock bottom. But I don’t think it’s last on many lists.”
It’s clear that Republicans in the state have failed to invest properly in public schools, said Amanda Eubanks, North Carolina Democratic House Caucus Director.
“Their lack of investment has left families and children across our state bearing the brunt of teacher shortages, lack of resources in schools, and damage to the potential of future leaders and our workforce,” she said in a statement.
The North Carolina House Democrats account said the state “ranks last in the nation in K-12 funding.”
The party said the claim was based on a study of education budgets for 2019-20 from across the country. But the tweet omits key context: It refers to what one organization calculated as North Carolina’s “funding effort” — its public pre-K-12 funding as a percentage of the state’s GDP — not its level of funding.
The same organization ranked North Carolina 19th for how well it distributed funding to schools with high student poverty and 48th for total spending per pupil. Other measures, including the National Education Association, the Urban Institute and EducationData.org, have ranked North Carolina low in funding per pupil, but they’re not dead last.
The statement contains an element of truth but ignores important facts that would give a different impression. This is our definition of Mostly False.