Sen. Michael Lee introduces bill that could change state funding for schools in North Carolina

North Carolina is one of only a few states that fund positions in schools versus dollars to teachers.
Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 11:30 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Senator Michael Lee introduced a bill that could change the funding for schools in North Carolina.

“What we’re trying to move to is a per capita weighted student formula. So, student-centered funding, as opposed to resource-based funding,” Lee said.

North Carolina is one of only a few states that fund positions in schools versus dollars to teachers.

“That would start with a base weight, each student will have a certain amount of money allocated to them and there will be certain weights placed on that funding, whether it’s for economically disadvantaged, a student with a disability, or some other weight. There are also weights for different grade levels because we invest more in K-5 than we do sometimes in middle school, because of smaller class sizes, and then we invest a little more in high school because of the different kinds of programs they have,” Lee said. “That will kind of get to a final number, and then that number will essentially follow a student. Let’s say they’re living in New Hanover County, they moved to Wake County, that funding would follow them to Wake County just like a Wake County student moving to New Hanover County, that funding would follow them on a particular method.”

The idea for change has been in the works since about 2016, and so far, Lee said he’s only heard positive feedback on the bipartisan bill.

“We’re talking about how we fund education, the largest piece of the pie of our state budget in North Carolina as a whole. This isn’t going to be a bill that just kind of gets dropped and moves and gets passed. It’s really the beginning of a discussion that we’re going to have not just within the legislature, but you know, with school districts, and others in North Carolina,” Sen. Lee said. “We’re starting to establish kind of a framework around what it might look like. And so, the next step is really for this bill to move to a committee so that we can begin that committee process and we can discuss how it might need to change, how we can determine that base weight because the base weight is going to be what’s important because the weights are all kind of a percentage of the base weight. And then we need to talk about how to implement it. Is this something that gets implemented statewide in one year? Or is this something that we kind of implement as a phase-in with certain districts opting into this process first, so that we can kind of work out any of the issues we may not be thinking of that may arise in the system?”

While this is just the beginning of this process, Lee says it’s a change that needs to happen.

“The current system is inefficient. It’s opaque. It’s difficult to understand,” Lee said. ”A lot of folks just have a hard time knowing how we’re spending money. You know, we look at average spend per child, you know, but when you really break it down, it’s very difficult to kind of see through what the framework looks like. This will help make it more transparent, more efficient and actually much more equitable among the various districts.”