NC Policy Watch: As new school year commences, shortage of basic supplies demonstrates legislature’s failure to invest
Thanks to politicians in Raleigh who continue to give tax breaks to corporations, funding for classroom supplies has dropped over 50%. This year parents and teachers are spending hundreds to provide essentials. Classrooms are lacking even basic items like chairs, paper towels, and bathroom soap. This is a disgrace! Children in North Carolina deserve a quality education, teachers deserve the support to provide it.
Per-student funding for supplies and materials is less than half of the amount provided in the 2009-10 school year. In current-dollar terms, the state provided funding of $68 per student in the 2009-10 school year, compared to just $31 per student for this school year.
Even when North Carolina was spending $68 per student in school supplies, the funding level was far below the levels recommended by national school funding experts. For example, a 2016 expert panel in Maryland recommended funding supplies and materials at $100 per-student for elementary schools and $115 per student at the middle and high school levels, with additional amounts for at-risk students and students with limited English proficiency. A Washington, DC study recommended providing $225 per student for supplies in middle and high schools.
The situation is equally dire when one adds text books to the equation. As far back as 2006, a study from Washington state recommended combined supplies/textbook funding of $140 per student in elementary and middle schools, and $175 per student in high schools. Current-year funding in North Carolina for those activities is just $78 per student, about half the level recommended in a similar state a decade ago!
North Carolina’s own spending patterns also reveal that current funding levels are inadequate. Despite the state being fully-responsible for all public school operating costs, the state covered just 24 percent of supplies and materials spending in the 2015-16 school year.