James Barrett for NC Superintendent

Resources

North Carolina has an unusual confluence of circumstances that drives what we see as resources available in classrooms and schools.

First, our constitution requires a “sound, basic” education in free public school for every child.

Next, in 1933, we passed the “School Machinery Act,” which basically says that the General Assembly is responsible for funding operations and counties should fund construction. If this is upheld, we would have one of the highest percentages of school funding coming from the state level–which is a good thing because a) income taxes can be more progressive than property taxes in general; and b) we would have the ability to equitably fund all students across the state, including those areas where property tax collection is inadequate to provide support schools need.

Finally, we are almost unique in the nation in still using a “position allotment” for how the state funds school districts. Most states give districts a pot of money and let schools determine how to spend it. While we need to be flexible with how local districts can meet local needs, I would suggest there are greater benefits from knowing the state is responsible for paying for the adults who do the work to ensure our Constitutional duty.

 

What it comes down to is how the position allotments are determined. To ensure that our schools are fully resourced, we need, among other things:

  • Nurses, counselors, social workers, and psychologists with manageable caseloads (based on solid research)
  • Teacher assistants in every K-3 classroom, as well as an assistant for every other 4-5 classroom.
  • Teacher allocations in middle and high school with enough planning time to deliver great instruction to every student
  • Class sizes that are reasonable and predictable
  • Enough central office support to remove paperwork and repetitive tasks from teachers
  • Adequate supplies and instructional materials–end the expectation that teachers will purchase items
We should be able to come to some agreement on “what it takes to run a school” and come up with allocation formulas that also take into consideration extra supports needed for students from low-income families and students with disabilities, and even some funding for gifted students. Then, if the state pays teachers enough (through strong salary schedules) to ensure that we can fill all these positions, we’ll know what the state budget for education should be every year.
 
This is not a goal that we can reach in a single legislative session. We need a multiyear commitment to return the resources to the classroom–something dramatically eroded over the past decade. We must understand just how many adults it takes to provide a “sound, basic” education–and the state must live up to its own rules and provide the funds to meet that level.
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