Local School Finance Study
For more than 30 years the Public School Forum has isolated state and federal spending to examine the capacity and effort counties make to support their schools. The intention of the annual local school finance study is not to blame counties for their effort to support schools, but to examine the capacity and actual effort the state’s 100 counties make to support 115 school districts. During the Great Depression the state assumed the major role for funding schools: “provided for the operation of a uniform system of schools in the whole State for a term of eight months…and relieved the county board of education of the responsibility for operating and maintaining the public schools of the county,” according to the 1933 School Machinery Act. Under the school finance system born seven decades ago, the state is supposed to pay for current expense(instructional programs and classrooms) and county governments are supposed to pay for capital expenses (buildings and maintenance). Despite being “relieved” of their responsibility, counties still spend billion’s of dollars of local money to fund current expenses.
North Carolina has been engaged in litigation defending its system of school finance for nearly twenty years, which was partially instigated because of spending inequities between low wealth and wealthy counties. The local school finance study is meant to highlight the funding inequities across counties in hopes to draw more attention to this growing problem.