There are many reasons why education in NC has become a bigger issue over the last decade, and it’s not a simple problem with a simple solution. Lack of adequate funding plays a big role. The Leandro v. NC Court case has declared that NC must provide students with a “sound basic education” per its Constitutional obligations. We received the WestEd Report on the Leandro Case in December 2019. Pastors for NC Children is involved in a state-wide community of education advocates to collectively push for the ruling to be carried out by the state on behalf of all of NC’s children. The 2008 Recession put pressure on budgets across the state, and funding has never recovered. NC has over $8 Billion in unmet school construction needs, and we cannot sit back and watch our communities crumble.
Many influences and factors are working to bring further privatization of schools to North Carolina and shift money away from traditional public schools (which are what 80% of students in NC still attend). Traditional public schools refer to tax-payer funded public schools run by an elected school board and held accountable to both the state through regulations and taxpayers through elections. (These include schools that operate on different calendar schedules and magnet schools.) Charter schools are funded through taxes but are independently operated and held to different accountability standards by the state. Some charters are nonprofits, some are considered nonprofit but managed by companies, and some are for-profit. NC has all three types of Charter Schools currently in operation. The presence of Charter Schools have increased rapidly since the cap of 100 schools was lifted.
The Opportunity Scholarship Program (also known as school vouchers) provide families with state tax money to use for private school tuition, but it has drawn money away from traditional public schools.
The NC General Assembly and State Board of Education have been working on an “Innovative School District” plan to take over low performing schools and put them under the control of charter school operators.
Decreasing equity is also big issue, and resegregation continues to increase in NC schools like the rest of the US. Over the past 10 years in NC, schools have become more racially segregated and the inequality has increased. “School segregation is associated with increasing racial achievement gaps, dropout rates, and incarceration rates.” (report, page 3) And as expected, these problems have increased as schools have become less diverse. The undoing of Brown v. Board of Education has hurt NC schools.
Increased poverty, especially among NC’s youngest citizens, is another factor. In 2017-18 (the last year for which we have data), 59.4% of students in NC Public Schools qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch (FRL), which serves as our best measure of lower socioeconomic status for the child’s family. One in 5 children (21%) in NC lived in poverty in 2017, and that number increases among certain ethnic groups in the state. NC has also seen the continued growth of the urban/rural divide hurts schools. Rural areas are more likely to have extreme poverty and are less able to compensate for the lack of state funding because they do not have the tax base to draw from for local taxes to supplement school budgets like the urban areas. More English Language Learners (ELL) students are arriving at public schools with less resources to support them and help their families navigate the systems to help them.
MORE INFORMATION ON THE ISSUES:
Effective and Equitable: Creating a Shared Vision For NC Schools is a must read in this conversation. It lays out the facts and figures around budgets, trends, and issues that our traditional public schools face in NC. The Public School Forum of NC‘s Top Ten Education Issues for 2019 is another helpful resource. Education is a multifaceted problem, but NC’s children are bearing the brunt of the problem.
Equitable and adequately funded traditional public schools are beneficial to everyone in our communities, and we believe they are part of providing love to our neighbors as part of showing God’s love to all children. All our children deserve a sound, basic education, and it is up to us to make sure they get it. The church, and church leaders in particular, have a strong voice that is needed in the conversation about what is best for all of God’s children living in NC. Our time to speak is now.
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