The Program Evaluation Division, under direction from a state legislative committee, examined how K-12 state funds were being distributed across counties and certain groups of students.
State Rep. Craig Horn, R.-Union, said North Carolina currently uses a funding system based on attendance. He said unlike other states, in N.C. schools, state money is the primary source of funding, rather than money from local governments.
Horn said the study showed the current system causes wealthier local education agencies to receive more state money on a per-capita basis than poorer LEAs.
“Our system tends to reward the wealthy and as a consequence it penalizes the poor,” he said.
The study’s findings were grouped into two categories — issues related to specific allotments and issues related to the overall funding for the system. The study also suggested policy actions to either overhaul or reform the current system.
Kris Nordstrom, an analyst with N.C. Policy Watch, said the report does not provide strong evidence for problems with education funding in North Carolina. He said the report failed to examine the distribution of funds based on district need.
“The bigger issue is that the Program Evaluation Division was tasked with looking at the efficacy and the equity of the existing finance system, and rather than tackle that question, they instead looked at individual allotments that are not meant to be looked at on the individual basis because they are a part of the greater system of finance,” he said.
Sean Hamel, principal program evaluator at the Program Evaluation Division, said the division was never asked to address the adequacy of K-12 education funding, but rather to solely examine the mechanisms of the system.
Horn said the legislative committee plans to create a joint task force in response to the study.
“We will take a more deep dive than even this report recommends, and resulting in a fundamental change in how we fund education,” he said.
Representatives in the committee will present legislation in response to the study at a Dec. 12 meeting. The General Assembly would have to approve this legislation when it reconvenes in January.
Horn said he is optimistic about the direction North Carolina education is headed.
“The goal is to regain the initiative and again secure North Carolina’s place as the number one education state in the nation,” he said.