More than 30 school districts filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the state of North Carolina for $46.4 million that was allocated to the court system instead of the schools.
According to the lawsuit, the state owes fees from $50 surcharges imposed on drivers who were convicted of having improper equipment since 2011.
The legislature changed the law in 2011 to have the $50 charge go toward the state court system instead of the school system. But North Carolina's Constitution states that all fines must be directed to maintaining the public school system.
“It is interesting to me that in the doing of this nobody really went back and thought, ‘Wait, the Constitution is really explicit about these types of funds going to schools,'” said Eric Houck, an associate professor in the UNC School of Education.
Emili Hall, a senior biology major who is pursuing a high school teaching license through the UNC-BEST program, said she would love the money to return to education, specifically teacher salaries.
“I would argue that the $46.2 million collected from improper equipment would be more beneficial in the school systems rather than the state court system," she said.
Hall said the number of students in North Carolina has increased by approximately 50,000 since 2008, yet funding has decreased by almost $100 million. Teachers’ salaries have also decreased by $17.4 percent, she said, which is the biggest decrease in the nation.
“Our students are the future of N.C. and our teachers are dedicated to providing them with the best education possible,” she said. "It would be such an accomplishment if the state legislators prioritized their students and teachers by providing them with the financial support they need.”
Houck said the N.C. school budget may look like it's increasing, but money allocated per pupil shows the state is underfunding each year.