The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday January 28th

N.C. Education Funding Up $143 Million

A study conducted by Sen. Edwards predicts that special education will see the largest increase in funds.

Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., completed a study that outlines the projected funding for the state, breaking down the $1 billion in total funding by specific programs and school districts.

The study projects that North Carolina will receive an increase of $35 million for special education funding, $19 million for teacher training and $4 million for bilingual education, among other funding allotments.

According to the study, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools will receive $147,000 more than last year, an increase of 22 percent, raising the Title I funding for the system to $803,000.

Title I provides money for elementary and secondary education and is the largest federal aid program for education.

In a press release, Edwards championed the No Child Left Behind Act as an education victory for N.C. schools.

"The legislation builds upon the practice and promise of North Carolina's example and provides increased federal resources to maintain the state's commitment to high achievement for all students," he stated.

But Neil Pedersen, superintendent for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said it is difficult to decipher whether the bill will actually benefit area schools.

"It's a little hard to determine at this point," Pedersen said. "Some areas like K-3 literacy have increased, but other areas of funding have been reduced."

Pedersen added that he is most concerned with the lack of funding for special education programs and the implications and consequences the accountability programs will have on the state.

"A lot of people are concerned about the assessment piece," he said. "Rather than reward with bonuses, it uses consequences like reduced funding."

Kay Williams, press secretary for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, said the success of North Carolina's mandatory testing programs in grades three through eight contributed to the implementation of testing programs at the national level.

"North Carolina and Texas have two of the most expert and well-developed programs in the country," Williams said.

But she said there are a lot of unknowns in the bill that could alter North Carolina's program, including vague guidelines and new requirements for science testing.

Williams added that the bill overlooks an important need in North Carolina -- building construction and renovation.

But Edwards' press secretary, Michael Briggs, said the senator is committed to trying to provide federal assistance for new school construction.

Briggs added that increased funding for bilingual education, early education and teacher quality are a good start, but more initiatives are needed.

Pedersen said any increase in funding may be offset by the added accountability restrictions. "The biggest issue is that the testing will ultimately impact curriculum," he said. "It also holds the potential for the reduction of federal money in the future."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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