RALEIGH – North Carolina’s spending on K-12 public education took a hit during and after the Great Recession – and it still hasn’t fully recovered.
Compared with its neighbors, North Carolina’s spending per student ranked 8th of 11 Southeastern states in 2017-18.1 North Carolina both lags adjacent states – trailing South Carolina by $2,385 per pupil – and has yet to restore spending per student to pre-recession levels.
In constant dollars, North Carolina’s spending per student peaked at $9,952 in 2007-08, ranking 40th in the nation. State support per student continued to slide to $8,784 in 2012-13, when North Carolina ranked 46th.
As North Carolina’s population continued to grow, state legislators made incremental increases until spending per student reached an estimated $9,528 in 2017-18, ranking 39th.2 But spending per student still remained $424 less than pre-recession levels in 2017-18, after adjusting for inflation.
Beyond the dollars, officials have focused in recent years on 3rd-grade reading proficiency.
Ninth-graders who read proficiently in 3rd grade are three times more likely to go to college, Venessa Harrison, President of AT&T North Carolina, noted at a recent NC Chamber Conference on Education.
Yet students who do not read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out, Harrison said, and 62% of North Carolina 4th-graders do not read proficiently.
We’ve made some progress, but we have a long way to go.
1 http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/180413-Rankings_And_Estimates_Report_2018.pdf, p. 83. Current expenditures: The expenditures for operating local public schools, excluding capital outlay and interest on school debt. These expenditures include such items as salaries for school personnel, fixed charges, student transportation, school books and materials, and energy costs.