The results of that study, which were released in 2019, addressed the same phenomena as the newest study by the Public School Forum of North Carolina.
The average level of per pupil spending in each county according to the study was $1,714 in 2017-18. The top 10 counties spent an average of $3,305 per pupil on education, compared to an average of $782 per pupil in the lowest-spending counties. Orange County spent almost $400 more than the seven lowest-spending counties combined.
Lauren Fox, senior director of policy at the Public School Forum, discussed how state funding has been insufficient to meet the needs of many localities when it comes to funding for educational programs.
She said although the state does provide funding for education to all counties, sometimes this money is not enough to bridge the gap in what smaller, less wealthy counties are able to provide to their own school districts.
“North Carolinians living in lower-wealth districts face an impossible financial burden to support public education," Fox said. "Consequently, their schools are more poorly resourced than those in wealthier counties."
Michael Priddy, acting president and executive director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, also expressed great concern for the impact these disparities in funding may have on the educational development of North Carolina’s students.
“Year after year, our poorest counties fall further behind our wealthier ones in terms of resources available to their local schools,” Priddy said. “These funding disparities have a real impact on educational opportunity for students, particularly in terms of the ability of lower-wealth counties to fund local supplemental pay to attract and retain the teachers they need to serve students.”
He added that the organization was looking for ways to track these developments and find ways to address them in the near future, with local community groups and organizations serving as important allies in this continuing fight against educational inequality.
Penny Rich, chairperson of the Board of Orange County Commissioners, is one of many local officials who has publicly expressed concern over the inequalities in opportunity that were laid out in these studies.
She said one of the key reasons higher-income counties were able to allocate more funding for their schools while being able to impose lesser burdens on the people living there was that they had a more diverse tax base and that there was simply more material wealth to tax in those counties.
Governments in lower-wealth counties have a higher reliance on real estate taxes than other counties that are able to tax corporations and businesses that are based there. In Orange County, for example, Well Dot Inc. was among the latest corporations to settle in Chapel Hill that are contributing money to the county’s budget in the form of corporate taxes.
She also mentioned how insufficient funding of educational programs at the state level has further increased the burden on local governments to supply money to educational programs, and that this has disproportionately affected lower-income counties.
“It’s wrong. It’s absolutely wrong,” Rich said. “There is no way a child that comes from a different zip code, that doesn’t live in a wealthy county, should not be getting the same education as a child that lives in a different zip code within a wealthy county.”
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